Seattle’s 10th Interstitium Offers Equal Parts Tears and Laughter 

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May 21, 2024

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Seattle’s 10th Interstitium Offers Equal Parts Tears and Laughter 

by Alison Krupnick

On a rare 80-degree May day in Seattle, the basement of the Shafer Baillie Mansion was packed. According to the lore surrounding this imposing Tudor Revival home, the basement was once a speakeasy. A century later, there was still a conspiratorial air about the place. As emcee Elizabeth Dorn explained, the event we were waiting for would be analog – a one-time opportunity for performers and audience members to share a unique form of narrative medicine – live, spontaneous storytelling in its rawest, most emotional form.  

The theme, chosen by Dorn and Interstitium co-founder Stephanie Cooper, was Making the Call. This dynamic duo curated the content and flow of the evening in a way best described as spontaneous alchemy. 

A child refuses a blood draw, and a host of professionals attempt to meet his outlandish demands for more than hour before his beleaguered mother makes the call. Fifteen seconds later, the deed is done.  

Deciding to endure six-and-a-half minutes of daily brain “zaps” enables a sufferer to be free of emotional pain. Another sufferer learns to let go of rigid principles and to be open to new forms of healing. 

The grateful recipient of a call offering a new kidney comes to terms with the fact that this call must have been preceded by another call to a family that would not be crying tears of joy. 

We were reminded of the harsh realities of the early days of the COVID crisis – the inability to be with loved ones when they died and the condolence calls that replaced looking those loved ones in the eyes and comforting them.   

Through pagers, telephones, and airplane PA systems, we witnessed the lengths medical professionals will go to in their efforts to offer each patient personalized, compassionate care, even in the middle of the night or when inappropriately dressed. 

And we wondered, was it procrastination or fate that delayed a call to a famous singer, resulting in a perfect song to ease the transition for a dying woman and her loved ones? Was it pure instinct that led a medical student to find a driver’s license in a place where the sun don’t shine? 

Medicine is more than protocols, codes, and science. As Dorn acknowledged, the lyrical and irrational also come into play. 

Narrative medicine brings these pieces together. When it happens live, you can acutely feel what it means to be human, before returning to the bright light of a sunny day. 

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