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During World War II, a man is found beaten and unconscious in the streets of Trieste and brought to a German hospital ship. The Finnish-born doctor serving the German naval forces recognizes the name on his uniform as that of a vessal originating in Helsinki, the “Sampo Karjalainen." When the man wakes up, he has total amnesia; his memory loss has extended to language. In a crazy gesture of compassion, the doctor arranges for the man to be conveyed across war-torn Europe and home to Helsinki to be tended by a specialist. The doctor hopes that exposure to his homeland, its culture, and especially its language, will help the recovery of the man now called Sampo. They never see each other again.
Isolated and confused, Sampo, is given a bed in an empty visitors' ward of the hospital. The much awaited specialist never appears and Sampo never understands why. His closest friend is a tippling priest who teaches him Finnish through a reading of the Kalevala legends, libated with shots of Kosenkorva. He befriends some Russians who are housed briefly in his ward and he contemplates the hostilities between the nations. He wanders the city of Helsinki looking for triggers that may hand him back his identity – his past, a narrative. One of the nurses takes an interest in his case, shows him a special memory tree in a Helsinki park – and accepts his rejection of her affection with good grace. She is transferred to another place, but writes to him. He is unable to respond. She is angry.
In desperation Sampo joins the Finnish army and leaves for the eastern front. An epilogue tracks his demise and the doctor’s later discovery of his massive error.
Summary:Joan Didion's memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, chronicled the overlap of two catastrophes: the critical illness of her adopted daughter Quintana Roo and the sudden death of her husband of forty years, John Dunne. Between the writing of that memoir and its publication in 2005, Quintana died at age 39. She had suffered a 20 month illness which started as a flu, advanced to pneumonia and sepsis, with intracranial hemorrhage and other complications necessitating 5 surgeries and extended intensive care unit stays. Blue Nights is a meditation on Quintana, and her mother's consuming sense of loss over the tragedy of her only child.
Summary:The author takes us on a highly colorful autobiographical tour of his medical career - his personal life never enters this account - from a classical medical education in Paris as a young expatriate Swede (he remains expatriate the entire book) to his internal medicine practice in France, including a tour of Naples as a volunteer during the cholera epidemic of 1881 and his finally settling in Italy. There are also anecdotes - many of them side-splitting and told with uncommon skill - about conducting a corpse back to Sweden, a truly thrilling journey to Lapland, encounters with the legendary Charcot, his return to San Michele whence the book begins with a mythopoetic retelling of his first visit there, and his last years at San Michele as patron of a community (both local and international) and as collector and explorer of the nearby Mediterranean.
Sherwin Nuland has had a distinguished career as a surgeon on the faculty at Yale University and as an author with interests in history of medicine, medical ethics, and medical humanism. In this memoir we become acquainted with a different side of Nuland, that of son to a widowed, immigrant father with whom the author had a complex and difficult relationship.
We learn also that Nuland has suffered from depression on and off since he was preadolescent, experiencing a major breakdown in midlife. This book attempts to make sense out of the family dynamics and the depression. At the same time, it describes the insular world of Russian Jewish immigrants living in New York City's Lower East Side and Bronx in the first half of the 20th century.
Nuland explores, frankly and openly, his ambivalent relationship with his father, Meyer Nudelman, and contrasting adoration of his mother, who died when Nuland was 11. The young Sherwin (Sheppy) Nudelman lived in fear of his father's strict rules and unpredictable anger. Further, Sheppy was required to assist his father whenever he went out of the house because Meyer Nudelman had an unsteady gait that made walking difficult and that became increasingly severe. Although the boy initially enjoyed these neighborhood jaunts with his father, he was increasingly resentful of them as his father's condition deteriorated and as his own interests focused more on people and activities outside the home. His father's strong Yiddish accent, strange gait, and sloppy appearance were a major embarrassment.
The last third of Lost in America--chronologically the era of World War II, the Nazi atrocities, and after--concern Nuland's maturation and his path toward the profession of medicine. As he and his brother, Harvey, were contemplating a future in the world of Gentiles, they decided to change their last name from Nudelman to Nuland. Sherwin Nuland was accepted to medical school at "Waspy" Yale and chose to enroll there, deliberately distancing himself (on the surface) from his father and his culture.
In medical school Nuland realized that Meyer Nudelman's physical symptoms were caused by late stage syphilis. The initial shock and disbelief of that discovery dissipated; Meyer's growing helplessness and tremendous pride in the accomplishment of his son allowed for a measure of understanding and affection between the two.
Summary:Johanna Shapiro, Director of the Medical Humanities Program at University of California Irvine School of Medicine, brings her considerable skills and experience as medical educator, writer and literary critic to this unique volume of medical student poetry. Shapiro collected over 500 poems by medical students not only from her home institution but also from other US medical schools and performed a content and hermeneutic analysis. As Shapiro carefully details in her methodology section, she treats "poetry as a form of qualitative data, and [therefore] techniques of analysis developed for other sources of qualitative data (such as interviews, focus groups, and textual narratives) can be applied to an understanding of poetry." (p. 42)
Summary:A series of interrelated stories that include a novella (Sukkwan Island), the book is a semi-autobiographical tale of the impact of a father's suicide on his teenage son. The author, David Vann, represents his fictional self as Roy Fenn, and his father as Jim. In the first story, "Ichthyology," Roy is born on an island "at the edge of the Bering Sea" of Alaska and then he and his family move to Ketchikan, on an island in southeastern Alaska. Roy's father is ever restless and that includes an interest in women other than his wife. When Roy is about five years old the marriage breaks up and Roy moves to California with his mother. At the end of this chapter, Roy's father kills himself with one of his own guns.
Summary:On July 5, 1998, physics Professor Alan Cromer suffered a heart attack on a plane, and survived after almost an hour of resuscitation efforts, but sustained brain injury from lack of oxygen. In this chronicle of caregiving, his wife, a psychiatric nurse by training, gives a very personal, detailed account of the radical adaptations his disability required of both of them. Her story includes reflection on his and her own emotional adjustments to loss of parity in communication and awareness, practical adjustments to physical limitations, and social adjustments to family, friends and professional colleagues.
Summary:Perillo's essays offer a lively, variegated view from the wheelchair of a woman with multiple sclerosis who is also a naturalist, an outdoorswoman, a wife, and an award-winning writer. Not all of them focus on her condition, though observations about living with the disease occur in most, and are thematic to some. Most are also laced with wry humor. One comes to see in these sketches from the Pacific Northwest how full and rich a life it is possible to live while also fully acknowledging and even lamenting the loss of mobility. She invokes Thoreau several times, and her work may be easily situated in his tradition of personal, reflective essays on the natural world. For her, the natural world extends to the world of the body, linked as it is with the bodies of all living things.
At first the title seems to relate to the main character's lay-off or departure from his job as a professional cellist in a bankrupt and dissolving orchestra. As the story continues, the title's unpredictable meaning becomes clear.
Not surprisingly, jobs for cellists are difficult to find. Shattered by his desperate situation, Daigo, the central character (Masahiro Motoki), and his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), return from the city to his hometown where they begin to experience stresses and discomforts associated with joblessness. After a long period of searching, Daigo responds to an ad for someone to work in departures. Believing that he is applying for a travel advisor job, he discovers that the position involves the ceremonial art of caring for the bodies of those who have recently died--or departed. He learns about encoffination, the elaborate ritual of washing and dressing the body before placement in the casket prior to burial, from Sasaski (Tsutomu Yamazaki), his new employer.
Mika is so appalled and ashamed when she learns about his new career, she decides to leave him. In spite of his own unhappiness, Daigo continues on. With the remarkably skilled Sasaski at his side, Daigo develops great sensitivity in the ritualized care that is provided before family mourners. Each of the caring situations becomes for Daigo, a rich story about the textures of human life. He seeks solace for himself and another measure of dignity for the departed by playing beautiful music on his cello. Most viewers, including the eventually reconciled Mika, are impressed by the beauty of this probably unfamiliar Japanese ceremony.
Another moving dimension of Daigo's personal story occurs when information is revealed about the father who had abandoned him when he was a child. Circumstances intervene so that Daigo's new skills and sensitivities contribute to an understanding of that distant past and an opportunity to provide his father with a dignified departure ceremony.
This suggestively titled collection of poems provides a lyric record of a physician’s way of seeing. The situations to which the poems bear witness are not only medical, though many are. Some are cityscapes into which are woven surprisingly astute observations of homeless people or hitchhikers or ducks in the park. Some explore the geography of a body where memories are held in “neuron chains.” Some articulate bits of personal history from the point of view of a woman who has spent years in medicine, caring for the elderly, seeing bodies with the double vision of a clinician and a person whose spirituality clearly informs all she sees.
Titles like “ER Alphabet of Hurt” or “Looking for God On the Radio” or “Hippocrates Voyeur” or simply “Scars” may give some sense of the range of focus. Her vision and voice are strongly local; those who know Marin County, north of San Francisco, will recognize the places that become the poet’s personal geography. Those who don’t will still see in these poems a sensibility shaped and refined by the knowledge that comes from deep habitation.