Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Halloween Heartbreak


This is both our trick and treat. Enjoy a silly story – we hope it makes you laugh! Happy Halloween!

One of my more sensitive patients recently came to an office visit. Before arriving, he had emailed me about his despair and inability to stop crying for the last week. While we’ve been through some ups and downs over the course of our ten year relationship, and I’ve known him to be emotional at times, I couldn’t imagine what had upset him so. The following possibilities came to mind:


1.) His wife had left him for another farmer in the county.
2.) His dear old dog had finally died.
3.) His youngest had moved back home from Burlington.


I blocked off thirty minutes to talk with him to try and understand what was going on, and how I might be able to support him through this hard time.


When I walked into the examination room, I was shocked to see a 700 hundred pumpkin sitting in a cart in front of him. While I am no pumpkin maven, this was a beauty! Affixed to its side, was a red ribbon with a “#2” on it. In short order, Mr. H explained that he had nursed this particular pumpkin from seed to fruit for many months, and that he was convinced that he would finally win first prize at the county fair. Last weekend when he came in second, he was devastated. As he lifted the edge to show me a slight blemish on the base that may have explained the judges’ decision, the pumpkin rolled off the cart and split on my linoleum floor. Mr. H broke down once again. Over the next twenty minutes we had a heart-to-heart, and he explained to me why winning this contest, once in his life, would be a real affirmation.


In my role as clinician, it’s always important to meet patients where they are, and help them through upsetting life challenges. In our discussion, I emphasized that Mr. H could actually improve his mood, and get out of this funk, if he ATE the prize-winning pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are high in tryptophan, which crosses the blood-brain barrier, and increases levels of serotonin throughout the central nervous system.


With that, I bent down with Mr. H to gather thousands of pumpkin seeds for later roasting. There were certainly more than enough to get him through the looming, long Vermont winter, with a few to save for planting next summer in hopes of securing that blue ribbon.