Showing 1 - 10 of 12 annotations contributed by Poirier, Suzanne
When Lia Lee's sister slammed the front door to their Merced, California, apartment, Lia experienced her first in several years of increasingly severe seizures. The Lee family knew that the noise had awakened a dab, an evil spirit who stole Lia's soul. They also knew, in the midst of their grief for their infant daughter, that people suffering from "the spirit catches you and you fall down" often grew up to be healers in their Hmong culture.
Not surprisingly, the physicians and other health professionals who worked with Lia and her parents over the next seven-plus years did not share this diagnosis--most of them did not even know about it. Fadiman melds her story of Lia, the Lees, the family's physicians and social workers, and countless other people who enter the Lees' life (usually uninvited and unwelcome) with the long history of the Hmong people, their religion and culture, and their more recent lives as refugees from war in Laos and Cambodia (and the troubled history of their relationship to the U.S. military system).
Rosita Arvigo is a Chicago-trained doctor of naprapathy (an alternative therapy that involves soft tissue manipulation, diet, and other non-drug modalities) who moved with her husband (also a naprapath) to Belize to open a medical clinic. Shortly after her arrival she met Elijio Panti, given a variety of names by his patients: el viejito, the old man, numero uno, or el mero, the authentic one.
One of the last traditional healers of Mayan medicine, Panti uses observation, experience, and divination with his sastun to diagnose his patients' illnesses; and herbs, manipulation, and prayers to treat them. Arvigo studied with Panti for five years, learning to identify and use countless plants in the rainforest that surrounds her home and, eventually, discovering the object that becomes her own sastun.
The narrator of these short stories is a social worker who works for an agency for the blind, many of whose clients are diabetic, alcoholic, or mentally disabled as well. Over the course of the stories, the narrator leaves this work to go back to school in the arts, a personal ambivalence that may play some role in her continual, often dry critique of her clients, her work, and herself. Mostly, though, she casts a gruffly compassionate eye on the hard yet often rich and triumphant lives her clients lead, faced with financial and physical hardship as well as social ostracism.
The title of Scannell’s book refers to an episode in her work with AIDS patients when she realizes that the "good doctor" she’d been taught to be--scientifically precise, medically focused and aggressive--was not what many of her patients wanted or needed. From that point on, she strove to understand the nature of her patients’ suffering and how they might be cherished and morally supported during the last weeks and days of their lives. In a series of essays she offers haunting portraits of the men and women she served--and of herself, as she learns to recognize and grapple with her own anger, grief, comfort, and joy.
Noah Praetorius (Cary Grant) is a physician who cares for patients as human beings and not just bodies. His unorthodox methods are being challenged by Dr. Elwell (Hume Cronyn), who wishes to discredit Praetorius by exposing the secrets of his past. While Elwell investigates, Praetorius cares for a pregnant, unwed student (Jeanne Crain), who on learning of her condition, tries to commit suicide.
In order to give her hope, Praetorius tells the student that he was mistaken about her pregnancy and eventually marries her. In the conclusion, Praetorius reveals to a committee his secret life, which includes the historical questionable necessity of procuring his own cadaver for anatomy study, and wins the day.
Patrimony relates the final illness and death of Philip Roth's father, Herman Roth. It begins as a misdiagnosis of Bell's palsy, which is eventually diagnosed as a brain tumor. Further tests reveal that it is cancer, operable only with great effort and little promise of cure or even significant palliation. The family (including Herman) decides against surgery and remains in close contact with him until his death.
Roth recounts his father's increasing weakness and helplessness, his own emergency quintuple bypass surgery, and his dreams of his father speaking to him from beyond the grave. Writing this book, he concludes, is the natural and necessary process in bearing witness to his father's life and death.
One morning, while pondering the stress of his latest assignment at his uninspiring job, the narrator of Kangaroo Notebook feels an itching on his leg that seems to indicate an unusual hair loss. The next morning he wakes to discover that he is sprouting small radishes on his shins. After battling to be seen in his local medical clinic, he enters a hospital, where a physician prescribes hot-spring therapy in Hell Valley.
Hooked to a penile catheter and an IV bottle, the narrator begins a harrowing journey on his hospital bed through the underworld that seems to lie beneath the city streets. Here, he seeks health not so much as he seeks simple explanations for what is happening to him and the strange people he meets: abusive ferreymen, waiflike child demons, vampire nurses, a chiropractor who runs a karate school and works a sideline as a euthanist.
In 1978, seventeen-year-old Rosemary Mahoney spent her summer as housekeeper for author Lillian Hellman. A great admirer of Hellman's life and writing, Mahoney had applied directly to Hellman for the job, and could hardly believe her good luck in being hired. By the end of her first week of work, however, her mother had to talk her into staying.
Hellman, in her early seventies, was demanding, exacting, infuriating--and frail, nearly blind, forgetful, and lame. As Mahoney tells Hellman's story, she also tells her own, the daughter of a physician father who committed suicide when Mahoney was a child and a schoolteacher mother who was crippled by polio and is an alcoholic.
Richard Kraft is about as burnt-out as a fifth-year resident in pediatric surgery can be. Overwhelmed by his stint in an inner-city, public hospital in Los Angeles, he seeks to hide from the misery of his patients by avoiding any personal connection with them. Then he meets twelve-year-old Joy, an Asian immigrant trying desperately to learn the puzzling ways of her new culture. She speaks words that trigger memories from Kraft's own childhood as the son of a U.S. agent in Joy's country, and he loses his distance.
He performs surgery on a life-threatening cancer in her leg, pulling back at the last minute in an unreasonable fear that he will hurt her if he cuts too deep. The implied result: incomplete excision of the cancer and a death sentence for the child he now tries, unsuccessfully to avoid. His avoidance is repeatedly foiled by Linda Espera, the physical therapist with whom he is falling in love and who will not let him abandon the emotional needs of any of the children in Joy's ward.
Novelist Isabel Allende's daughter, Paula, died after entering into a coma following an acute attack of a porphyria disease. Allende was at her daughter's side in a hospital in Spain, where Paula was living with her husband, and later in Allende's home in California, where Paula spent the last months of her life.
When Paula first lost consciousness, Allende began writing for her an account of her illness, which soon grew into a memoir of Allende's own life: "Listen, Paula, I am going tell you a story, so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost" (p. 3), Allende begins. As Allende tells of her childhood, political and feminist awakenings, and her growth as a writer, she also watches Paula sink deeper and deeper into coma. She remains insistent, however, that Paula will recover, works in secret with a sympathetic physician to wean Paula from the respirator that breathes for her, then flies her back to California for rehabilitation.
In the end, though, she faces the reality that Paula will not recover, and, as she finishes telling Paula the story of her own life, she discovers that she has found the strength to let Paula go. Paula dies in a sunny room in Allende's house, surrounded by family and friends.