Showing 121 - 130 of 299 annotations tagged with the keyword "Surgery"

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This haunting memoir by a South African surgeon who has witnessed tremendous suffering across the globe is best read as his story, and not a war chronicle as the subtitle would suggest, since large chunks of the book are not about war in the dressing station sense of the term. That said, however, the war that rages inside the author continues throughout the book and gives the reader glimpses of wisdom gained during Kaplan's remarkable journey of life amidst death. The book is culled from journals of writing and sketches that he kept throughout his travels.

Kaplan's first crisis occurs when he joins fellow medical students in an anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town and, following the lead of a more senior student, Stefan, tends to the wounded and frightened after riot police attacked the demonstrators. Kaplan then gets the call of not only medicine as service, but surgery as service, when, as a neophyte doctor, he saves the life of a youth shot in the liver by the police.

This feat should not be underestimated, though the author writes with humility. Indeed, in recounting later incidents in which patients die, the odds tremendously stacked against the patients surviving anyway (a woman with disseminated intravascular coagulopathy and multiple organ failure, or the Kurdish boy in a refugee camp with a great hemorrhaging, septic wound), the author's self-chastisement is a painful reminder of how the physician suffers with each loss.

After a beautifully written prologue which begins, "I am a surgeon, some of the time" (p. 1), the book proceeds chronologically, each chapter named for the location of the action. Kaplan leaves South Africa to avoid military service and the fate that befell Stefan, who becomes an opioid addict after euthanizing a torture victim in a horrible scene of police brutality and violence. Kaplan's post-graduate training in England and BTA (Been to America) research stint heighten his sense of cynicism about hierarchy in English society and capitalistic forces in American medical research.

Ever the outsider, Kaplan first returns to Africa (treating victims of poverty, deprivation and violence), then sets off to war zones in Kurdistan, Mozambique, Burma (Myanmar), and Eritrea. In between, he works not only as a surgeon, but also a documentary filmmaker and a cruise ship and flight doctor. He avoids the more established medical humanitarian relief efforts, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, and instead prefers to work where no other ex-pat physician will go--enemy territory, front lines, and poorly equipped dressing stations.

Along the way he decides the number of people he has helped as a surgeon, particularly in Kurdistan, has been small compared to the potential to intervene in broader public health measures (he meets a Swiss water treatment engineer) and occupational health exposés to help abused victims (e.g., of mercury poisoning in South Africa and Brazil). The book ends with Kaplan studying to become an expert in occupational medicine, though, incongruously, in the heart of London's financial district where he treats stress-related illness.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This film tells the remarkable story of Vivien Thomas (played by Mos Def), an African-American fine carpenter, who found his way into medicine through the back door and changed medical history. Hired when jobs were in short supply to work as a custodian and sometime lab assistant to Dr. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman), a research cardiologist, Thomas quickly becomes an irreplaceable research assistant. His keen observations, his skill with the most delicate machinery and, eventually, in performing experimental surgery on animals, make clear that he has both a genius and a calling.

Though the relationship has its tensions (Blalock, as a Southern white man and a doctor, has some blind spots in the matter of mutual human respect, though he highly values Thomas’s skills) it lasts for decades. The two move their families to Baltimore, where Blalock becomes Head of Surgery at Johns Hopkins and, much to his colleagues surprise and to some of their dismay, brings Thomas in to perform groundbreaking open heart surgery on a blue baby. It is not until after Blalock’s death that Thomas is granted an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins, where he continues to work in research until his own retirement.

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Baptism by Fire

Davis, Heather

Last Updated: Oct-16-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

At seven months, Remy, daughter and second child of Heather and Lon Davis, is hospitalized with a seizure that, after several days of agonizing uncertainty, is traced to a brain tumor. This narrative of her diagnosis and treatment, told by her mother and very much from her mother’s perspective, is not only a chronicle of a medical event, but, perhaps more centrally, of a spiritual awakening in the mother’s life. From a person uncertain about and largely indifferent to prayer, faith, and spirituality, Ms. Davis becomes, over the course of her daughter’s treatment, convinced of the presence of God, the power of prayer, and the availability of grace in precisely those circumstances that threaten life and lifestyle and bring individuals face to face with their deepest fears and deepest needs.

A series of “coincidences” makes her more and more aware of how little she controls in the grueling process, and how much of comfort, relief, and unexpected aid comes as unsolicited gift from un expected places. The child recovers, unlike several others the mother encounters during her weeks of witnessing hospital life. The mother emerges profoundly different for the experience, and clearer in her purposes as a writer and, eventually, a teacher.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Oswald and Oliver Deuce (Brian and Eric Deacon) are brothers, separated conjoined twins, who are both zoologists. Their wives are both killed in a car crash. The driver of the car, Alba Bewick (Andréa Férreol), collides with a swan escaped from the zoo where the brothers work. As a result of the accident, one of Alba's legs is amputated.

The grieving brothers become obsessed with decomposition as evolution's logical complement, and begin exploring, by means of time-lapse photography, the process of decay of life forms of increasing complexity (while they watch, obsessively, the David Attenborough TV series, "Life on Earth"). As their experiments require more animals, they become involved in a shady scheme for procuring animal corpses from the zoo, a process involving a prostitute / teller of erotic tales who is sexually obsessed with black-and-white animals.

Alba, now with one leg, becomes obsessed with symmetry. She takes both Oswald and Oliver as lovers, becomes pregnant, and bears twins. She is persuaded by a Vermeer-obsessed aesthete veterinary surgeon to let him amputate her second leg. She decides to commit suicide and plans to have the twins film what happens to her body after death. When her family prevents them from taking her, Oswald and Oliver instead set up their time-lapse photography equipment and kill themselves, choosing to decompose together.

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The Operation

Sexton, Anne

Last Updated: Sep-05-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker of this poem undergoes surgery for some kind of abdominal cancer--the important detail being that her mother had recently gone through the same experience and died several months later. A number of images convey the strangeness and alienation of serious illness. The mother’s cancer is an "embryo of evil" that curiously grew inside her like her own daughter (the speaker). The hospital room is the place "where the snoring mouth gapes / and is not dear."

And at her mother’s bedside the speaker finds that she must "lie / as all who love have lied." Her body hair shaved for her own operation, the speaker finds important values have been stripped away: "All that was special, all that was rare / is common here. /. . . Fact: the body is dumb, the body is meat." Coming out from under anesthesia, the speaker calls for her mother.

Later she realizes that, unlike her mother, she will probably survive. The last lines are comic in a self-deflating way, as the speaker gives herself get-back-to-life marching orders partly in the voice of her mother, concluding: "and run along, Anne, run along now / my stomach laced up like a football / for the game." (About 120 lines, in 6- and 9-line stanzas)

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Medicine: The Art of Healing

Nuland, Sherwin

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Art with Commentary

Summary:

The author selected 48 works of art, famous and obscure, which are presented in chronological order as full-page color plates. On the facing page of each piece is a brief essay which includes information such as artist, date and current location of the work. The essays, as well as the introduction by the author, are insightful, well-written, and demonstrate the author’s vast knowledge as a medical historian. Selections include the "Oath of Hippocrates", Studies of the Fetus by da Vinci, The Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt, The Dwarf Sebastian de Morra by Velazquez, "Muscle-Man from Vesalius" by van Calcar, and First Operation Under Ether by Hinckley (see art annotation in this database).

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My Breast

Wadler, Joyce

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

One morning in the shower Joyce Wadler, "a journalist, forty-four, Jewish, never married," discovers a lump in her left breast. In this brief, bright, and very readable account, Wadler describes what happened next, taking us through medical examination, diagnosis, and successful lumpectomy and chemotherapy.

But this is much more than a simple patient’s story. For one thing, Wadler is an intrepid researcher, and we learn a good deal about breast cancer and the often agonizing therapeutic choices its victims face. For another, she does not separate her medical adventure from the rest of her life, which includes a day job as a writer for People magazine, a book project, a semi-functional relationship, and a Jewish mother.

Finally, Wadler uses her ironic-sardonic sense of humor to great advantage--remarking, for instance, that through her post-diagnosis impulse to live in the present and not worry about her lover’s monogamy, cancer had made her "the dream girl of every uncommitted man in Manhattan"!

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Midwives

Bohjalian, Christopher

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In March, 1981, in Vermont, Charlotte Bedford goes into labor. She has decided to give birth at home with the help of a midwife, Sybil Danforth, but complications develop. Charlotte has a seizure, her heart stops, and she does not respond to CPR. The fetus is still alive, so Sybil delivers him successfully by Cesarean section, with a kitchen knife. But the bleeding when Sybil makes the incision convinces her assistant that the patient’s heart was still beating. She reports this to the police and Sybil is put on trial for involuntary manslaughter.

The story of the trial is told by Sybil’s daughter, Connie, fourteen years old at the time and now an obstetrician-gynecologist. The acquittal comes at a price: the midwife finds herself no longer capable of delivering babies, and both she and her daughter are given a new insight into the uncertainty which underlies so many of medical decisions. At the end of the novel we are left uncertain whether or not Charlotte was still alive when her baby was delivered.

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Minor Surgery

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Nathan was born with a strawberry birthmark on his chest, which both repels and comforts him. Sometimes it is an intricate and unique part of himself that sets him apart from other people and has the power to make him feel special. On the other hand, its very strangeness makes it repulsive to others, especially to women. At his girlfriend’s urging he decides to have the birthmark removed. Despite his doubts, he goes through with the surgery only to realize he has made a big mistake. He blames his girlfriend for his decision.

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Nurse's Choice

Brennan, Frederick Hazlitt

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Miss Armistead is a nurse in the surgical division of a hospital. She is being courted by two men, Dr. Joe Trask, the chief resident, and Dr. Mort Baker, an established and very successful surgeon. Everyone in the division is taking bets on her choice. Most assume she will choose Baker, the wealthier, more powerful doctor.

Then Miss Armistead develops appendicitis and requires emergency surgery. Joe Trask is on duty and has to begin the operation before Baker arrives, but experiences a terrible crisis of confidence, becoming helpless with fear. Baker arrives and completes the operation.

Everyone assumes that this will clinch Baker’s victory, but when Joe tells her how he was unable to operate on her, Miss Armistead takes this inability to see her as just another patient to be proof of the depth of his love for her, and agrees to marry him.

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