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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Family

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Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Risk assessment is hard. Nearly every situation has a range of different variables that affect risk, and only some of these variables can be quantified. Others we have to estimate, and in the human brain, emotions inevitably get tangled up in the process of trying to make those estimations and come to an overall idea of how risky something is or isn’t.

“This is why medical doctors and people in public health train for years to help people understand the public health landscape and marry public health with their own individual conditions and risk,” Lucy McBride, MD, an internist in…


Pandemic Reflections

During the pandemic, I discovered the life-affirming magic of learning mixed martial arts with your family

Young woman stretching on a yoga mat in front of a laptop.
Young woman stretching on a yoga mat in front of a laptop.
Photo: AsiaVision

Shortly after sunrise every Thursday and Sunday morning, I log on to Zoom and learn mixed martial arts for an hour with my retired parents, aunts, and uncles. Tuesdays and Saturdays are slightly softer: We practice hip-hop, jazz, and Latin dance.

We are not a particularly fitness-minded family, and we are not especially good at mixed martial arts or dancing (although my sexagenarian dad’s Brazilan samba footwork is impressive, and my upward elbow strike is rather vicious). Nevertheless, we keep showing up. My 33-year-old cousin Trish, a palliative care doctor on the front lines of the pandemic, participates too. In…


Pandemic Reflections

There are several things I don’t want to let go of

Photo: Andy Andrews/Getty Images

I feel scared about the pandemic ending. That feels wrong to write, in light of all the loss, pain, and misery people have endured over the past year. My family and I are extremely lucky, fortunate, and privileged: Our kids go to school part-time, my parents and in-laws are vaccinated, and the husband and I can easily work from home. I’m in an industry that doesn’t qualify as “essential.”

My last professional outing was exactly a year ago: the Hot Pod Summit, where my fellow podcasters and I nervously giggled as we greeted each other with elbow bumps and then…


Pandemic Reflections

The pandemic got me stuck in emergency mode. Here’s how an actual emergency-room visit snapped me out of it.

Photo: vm/Getty Images

If you’re not a working parent, let me share a Cliff’s Notes version of what it feels like (to me, anyway) in normal times: You figure out your life down to the minute. You find the best and most convenient childcare you can afford. You arrange your commute around this childcare. You can no longer arrive early or stay late at work, so you stay rigidly on task (burnout-spaciness days aside) and dash for the elevators the moment the clock strikes five. You curse traffic or stalled subway trains and school breaks. You fly into rooms breathlessly apologizing for being…


There’s still a lack of openness, and even awareness, when it comes to men and infertility struggles

Illustration: Peter Gabriel Gehrman

Scott Burkholder lay on his couch, huddled under a blanket, stunned and silent. It was 2018, just a few weeks before Christmas. He had a lump in his throat. Water in his eyes. And a urologist seated by his feet, delivering the news: There was no sperm in his testicles. What many men consider their life’s greatest project — having and raising children — appeared out of reach.

The news landed on Burkholder like a punch to the face. Initially, he was shocked it had happened, then confused as to why, and then, finally, forced to process the accompanying pain…


Even eight months in, this can still be so touchy

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Back in March, you may have noticed an odd… apathy? complacency? willful ignorance? among family members of a certain age — people who, despite being among the most vulnerable to Covid-19 (we knew this even then!), seemed generally unworried about the whole thing. Whatever has happened in your family in the interim, it’s possible that as the holidays approach, your older relatives’ understandable need for love, connection, and tradition is once again outweighing the many hard lessons these long pandemic months have wrought. (As The Onion put it, Mom Completely Understands That Coming to Thanksgiving Is Risky and That You…


An OB-GYN reviews the early research and the protective role of the placenta

A mother who tested positive for Covid-19 while she was pregnant and after she delivered is isolated from her son at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas. Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Giving birth in a pandemic considerably ups the stakes of concern. Pregnant women around the world are worried they will catch Covid-19 and pass it on to their newborn baby. And we know that viral infections in pregnancy and postpartum can lead to poor outcomes in babies.

Much remains unknown about the coronavirus’s effects on pregnant women and babies, but a recent prepublished manuscript titled “Infant Outcomes Following Maternal Infection With SARS-CoV-2” demonstrates highly encouraging results.

The new data shows that babies born to women with Covid-19 demonstrate no increase in low birth weight, difficulty breathing, apnea, or respiratory infections…


How to face the reality and make a plan

Photo: Mark Liddell/Moment/Getty Images

Kristen Carpenter, PhD, comes from a big family in Michigan, and she hasn’t yet decided how to approach the holidays, which traditionally involve road trips for large gatherings. Carpenter, the chief psychologist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, is keeping one eye on the rate of Covid-19 infections in Michigan and the other on the wishes and concerns of her far-flung family.

Whatever they decide to do or not do, “We’ve got to get a lot of people on board,” she says, pointing out that each of her relatives has…


A loving doctor, husband, father, and grandfather was lost. I won’t let his death be in vain.

Two hundred thousand is an unfathomable number — a numbing number — but there is real human pain behind it.

I was married to Jay Galst for 47 years and 10 months until he died needlessly this spring. Until mid-March, he was still working at his Manhattan ophthalmology practice, seeing his patients whom he cared deeply about. As he examined them, they’d discuss their growing families (including children he may have operated on years ago who were now grown with children of their own), music, history, coins, golf, and travel. The coronavirus had only recently appeared stateside. Jay’s work as…


Covid-19 restrictions make grieving more difficult. Here are expert-backed tips for supporting people through the death of a loved one

Illustration: Jo Zixuan Zhou

In early August, I was driving from one Georgia suburb to another to attend a restricted, masked funeral for my best friend’s father — if you can call it a funeral at all. He was immunocompromised and died of Covid-19. At the service, his body was covered with a white sheet and sparse flower arrangements. My friend and her mother sat alone in the front of the state room, facing the body. They wore masks, shields, and gloves. As is customary in my friend’s Hindu culture, both mother and daughter dressed in all white.

There was no holding, no hugging…

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