A Parallel Universe

by Jessica Howard

A Parallel Universe

Just around the corner 
There is a parallel universe

A 21 year old man lives there
He's my age
But his life is worlds away from mine
Abused as a child
A father at 18

I'd cross the road to avoid him in the street

Works at a local garage
Where my car was fixed last year
Our worlds touch, but never meet
Until today

He's in floods of tears in front of me
In the doctor's surgery
His mother is being abused
His sister committed suicide
He's wanted by the police
He's lost his job
Has a daughter to support

What's the point in living?
he asks me

What do I say?

He goes back to face his world with some antidepressants
And I go back to my parallel universe
Just around the corner.

Jessica Howard
details have been changed to maintain patient confidentiality


I think this is quite an interesting idea and I actually enjoyed doing it although I had been dreading it and putting it off! Unfortunately we can all get so buried by the number of facts we have to learn that we can become numbed to the human aspect of medicine throughout our training.


 Whole Person Care


Khadija Sesay

19 March 2012 - 11:25:01
"This piece displays the discrete but open quality of our lives, which can be represented through systems. The writer effectively displays how although there are aspects of our lives that will interconnect, there are also distinct social and emotional boundaries. There can sometimes be circumstances that separate one person’s life from another’s, and creates a situation where they may physically live in the same place, but on a social and emotional level, live with distinct barriers between them. This is effectively demonstrated throughout the poem with common things the speaker and the 21 year old man share, whilst at the same time they have such different realities and as the writer eloquently describes, “Parallel Universes”."


28 October 2017 - 07:30:55
"I found this a very moving and powerful poem which really highlights the divisions within our society. Within Bristol the contrasts between privilege and deprivation can be seen all around us. Through my work in medicine I have also come to hear some of the stories from patients lives which help to explain their illness, their mental health or their behaviour. To try and understand something of the person behind the presentation is key to being an effective doctor. Being trusted with this knowledge and insight is also one of the great privileges of being a doctor. Thank you for this beautifully written piece."

Lauren Garratt

29 October 2017 - 22:01:02
"This poem really moved me and made me think about how although it's important for doctors to emotionally connect and understand their patient, division and differences in society mean this is not always possible no matter how hard doctors try. It highlights the struggles of overcoming these boundaries to help others who couldn't be more different."

Amy Woods

04 November 2018 - 22:12:39
"This poem really struck me, as it's the type of concept I wonder about whilst walking through a busy street or in crowds full of people: that every one of these strangers has their own life, their own story, their own family and hardship and happiness. The author eloquently describes this as their 'parallel universe', and it's a concept I think will become increasingly more familiar as I progress through medical school and encounter more patients. My GP placements so far have highlighted how even though there are many ways we interact with those around us, there are still social boundaries that separate our lives, and experiences that may make some people feel secluded and alone. I hope that as a doctor I can do what I can to bridge this gap, and learn more about the person and emotions behind the patient and consultation."

Morgan Howland

06 November 2018 - 09:14:54
"I think this poem is so powerful because of its universal relevance. It highlights the importance of healthcare professionals recognising that although on paper a patient’s lifestyle may be similar to their own, the decisions they make regarding their healthcare are to be individually respected. Similarly, from a patient’s perspective this poem can help to bridge the gap between patient and doctor by making professionals seem more human, which is becoming more and more important in this evolving state of healthcare."