Showing 131 - 140 of 292 annotations tagged with the keyword "Surgery"

A Leg to Stand On

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This is a story of injury in the midst of exuberant good health, followed by a progressively darkening journey. The writer experiences a period of isolation from normal life by his hospitalization, isolation from a part of his body by neurosensory damage to the injured leg, isolation from the security of medical colleagues by their insensitivity to his anguish. Sacks reaches a psychological nadir before beginning his return. He chronicles, retrospectively, the stages of this trip. As in the classical journey myths, the traveler returns with new insight and an altered vision of the meaning of disease.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

An epigraph preceding this 28-line poem, apparently from notes by the physician-writer’s physician-father, sets the action of the poem in Wales in 1938. In the operating room, the surgeon attempts to locate the brain tumor of a patient who was under only local anesthesia because of his blood pressure. In those days in that place, finding the tumor was a "somewhat hit and miss" procedure that seems to have involved looking for it with one’s fingers.

A grotesque image, but all goes well until the patient, in a "gramophone" or "ventriloquist" voice not his own, cries out, "Leave my soul alone, leave my soul alone!" The doctor withdraws from the brain, but the patient then dies, after which the mood in the operating room is shocked and speechless, as "silence matched the silence under snow."

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Hard Laughter

Lamott, Anne

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator, Jennifer, is a young, eccentric, struggling writer who lives in a small northern California coastal town full of even more eccentric individuals. Her father, Wallace, a kind and generous intellectual, is diagnosed with a brain tumor and has to undergo surgery and postoperative radiation therapy. It is a story of a family dealing with the rage, grief, anxiety and sudden changes in everyone’s lives when a family member has a serious illness. This is a family knit well with love, tenderness, alcohol, and lots of humor (often black and exceedingly funny)--the diagnosis brings the family and small circle of friends even closer together.

The writing shifts easily between the specifics of observed details to general philosophizing about life and death. Despite the horror and uncertainty, Wallace notes: "I still believe that life is supposed to be good, and my life as a cancer patient can be good, lived one day at a time, and at some point it may be determined that I am no longer a cancer patient, and my life will be better for this scare we’re having. We’re all on borrowed time anyway, and it’s good to be reminded."

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Doctors' Wives

Slaughter, Frank

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the town of Weston, the site of Weston Medical School, with its teaching hospital and private faculty clinic. The main characters are a group of seven men (six physicians and one administrator) who met while serving together in the Army during the Korean War and later joined to form the nucleus of Weston Medical School. These men all occupy prestigious positions as chiefs of various clinical departments and conduct lucrative private practices at the clinic.

Their wives meet regularly in what they call the "Dissection Club." While the women are said to be friends, their meetings consist primarily of backbiting, cattiness, and expressions of profound boredom. Mostly, they are bored with their sex lives. While the wives generally engage in small-scale infidelities (including a medical student in one case), Lorrie Delman, the wife of the biochemist, is exceptional because of her voracious sexual appetite, about which she is highly vocal. Lorrie obsessively "sleeps around." In fact, she proposes that the group devise a regular sequence of husband swapping, a suggestion that her friends vote down in favor of a more random approach to adultery.

The drama commences when Mort Delman catches his wife in bed with Paul McGill, the dermatologist. Delman shoots a single bullet that goes through Lorrie's back and chest, killing her (she is lying on top of Paul) and then lodges in her lover's heart. Marissa Feldman, the brand new female physician, accurately diagnoses and treats Paul's life-threatening cardiac tamponade in the emergency room, after which Anton Dieter, the cardiac surgeon, removes the bullet lodged in the victim's right ventricle. Needless to say, Paul McGill recovers uneventfully, and Drs. Feldman and Dieter engage in a sexual escapade.

Meanwhile, members of the "Dissection Club" begin to re-assess their lives and loves. After all, they conclude, any of their husbands could have been caught at Lorrie Delman's house having some "afternoon delight." Perhaps the wives should pay more attention to their husbands, or otherwise enhance the meaningfulness of their lives. While this is going on, Mort Delman, the biochemist-killer, has no fear of languishing in jail because he has a perfect "impassioned husband" defense. In addition, he also manages to pull off a scheme to extort money from the other physicians in return for his leaving town and not revealing everyone's secrets. If this isn't enough to whet your appetite, Doctors' Wives also features additional plot twists and a surprise ending.

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Face Lift

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

After a face lift operation, the protagonist tells the poet, "I’m all right." She describes her voyage into anesthesia, where "Darkness wipes me out like chalk on a blackboard . . . . " Afterward, after the dressings come off, she sees that she has grown backwards, "I’m twenty, / Broody and in long skirts on my first husband’s sofa . . . . " "Old sock-face" is gone--no loss! She wakes, "swaddled in gauze, / Pink and smooth as a baby."

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film is biographical, based on the life of the actress Frances Farmer (1914-1970), who was briefly successful in Hollywood in the early 1940’s and was then institutionalized for mental illness. She was "cured" by a transorbital prefrontal lobotomy.

The film begins with Frances (Jessica Lange) winning a high school writing competition with an essay criticizing God. This outspoken intelligence characterizes her. As a young actress, she wins a trip to Russia in a competition run by a Communist newspaper, performs on Broadway, and ends up in Hollywood. Quickly, however, it becomes clear that her unconventional behavior and attitudes make her vulnerable to people, including her overbearing and vicariously ambitious mother (Kim Stanley), who demand that she conform to more passive forms of femininity.

When Frances is arrested for drunk driving, her mother puts her in a "convalescent home," where she is given insulin injections in the guise of "vitamins." She escapes and, deciding that the pressures of the film industry are causing her drinking problem, tells her mother that she won’t be returning to Hollywood. Her starstruck mother, appalled, has her committed.

After undergoing the closely filmed experiences of the strait jacket, the padded cell, and shock treatment, all in the frighteningly bedlam-like atmosphere of the asylum, Frances submits to psychiatric surgery. This is perhaps the most disturbing part of the film. She is lobotomized in front of an audience by a mallet-wielding surgeon who boasts he can do ten patients per hour because "lobotomy gets ’em home."

Sure enough, Frances is allowed to go home. The film ends several years later in 1958, when Frances Farmer really did appear on the television show, "This is Your Life." We watch the show through the eyes of Harry York (Sam Shepard), the journalist who has always loved her, and he goes to meet her afterwards.

She has been transformed: composed and seemingly serene, but fundamentally blank, she has become a chilling shadow of herself. Early on in the film, she refuses to cooperate with a psychotherapist, saying "I don’t want to be what you want to make me: dull, average, normal." By the end of the film she has been reduced to the hollow appearance of all these things--and is grateful for it.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dr. Forrest Janney, once a prominent surgeon, has given up his practice in the city and retired to his hometown in Alabama due to alcoholism. He runs the local pharmacy and keeps up his medical license, but doesn’t practice. His brother Gene begs Forrest to operate on their nephew, who is comatose from a gunshot wound in the head; he was sent home to die. Other doctors have refused to operate because the bullet is lodged close to a major artery at the base of his skull. Dr. Janney examines the young man. Although Janney declines to operate, citing his drunkenness and tremor, he encourages his family to keep trying to find a surgeon because he estimates a 25% chance of survival if the bullet is removed.

Shortly thereafter, a violent tornado plows through the town, leaving dozens of dead and wounded. Dr. Janney immediately pitches in with several other doctors to treat the wounded and makes supplies from his pharmacy available at no charge. The comatose nephew is also found in the wreckage, barely alive, and in order to give him at least a chance, Janney operates on him, despite being fortified by a heavy dose from his flask.

A few days later, the nephew presumably dies (not clear from the text). A little girl whom Dr. Janney has befriended is sent to the orphanage in Montgomery because her father died in the tornado. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Janney leaves town, after giving his house to his brother and his family. He is on his way to save the little girl from the orphanage.

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Frears presents a stark portrayal of London’s underbelly, a place where everything is for sale--at a price. It is a world in which most people tend to ignore or overlook: prostitution, illegal immigrants struggling to survive, illegal activities, humiliating circumstances, and most centrally, black market organ transplantation. "We are the people you don’t see." Information age technologies mix with greed and desperation to depict an engrossing and sordid narrative about real-life events occurring in places beyond the ordinary purview. This modern day thriller brings audiences to the edge of their seats as they witness harrowing and very believable accounts of marginalized members of society deprived of basic human dignities.

The story is complex but two characters dominate, a doctor from Nigeria (Chiwetel Ejiofor) now reduced by harsh circumstances to several menial jobs including taxi driving and hotel clerking, and an illegal chambermaid from Turkey (Audrey Tautou) whom he befriends and assists. She lives in constant danger of humiliation, exposure, deportation. Their paths cross in a hotel where both work, where "johns" are served by prostitutes, and where illegal and sloppy surgical procedures are employed to harvest kidneys from desperate donors.

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Dr. Haggard's Disease

McGrath, Patrick

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this first person narrative, Dr. Edward Haggard addresses his story to James, the son of his former lover Fanny Vaughn. Haggard, once a surgical registrar at a major hospital in London, has isolated himself in a coastal town, where he serves as a general practitioner. The "present" of Dr. Haggard’s story is the early stages of World War II, when James Vaughn, a Royal Air Force pilot, lies dying in Edward Haggard’s arms.

The story’s "past" has multiple dimensions. The outermost, framing story recounts the relationship between James and Edward that began several months before the war and a year or so following Fanny Vaughn’s death from kidney disease. James sought out the reclusive Dr. Haggard to discover the "truth" about Haggard’s relationship with his mother.

The inner story consists of Haggard’s description of his reckless and passionate love affair with Fanny, an ultimately hopeless liaison between a young registrar and the wife of the hospital’s senior pathologist. Their few brief months of happiness ended when Dr. Vaughn learned of the affair, and Fanny made the realistic choice to remain with her husband and adolescent son. In a confrontation between the two men, Vaughn knocked Haggard to the floor, causing a leg injury that resulted in chronic pain and permanent disability.

Haggard resigned from the hospital and withdrew to a solitary life, in which "Spike" (the name he gives to his deformed and painful leg) is his only companion. He must constantly "feed" Spike with intravenous morphine to quell the emotional, as well as physical, pain. The situation only worsens when Haggard learns of Fanny’s death from kidney failure.

The obsession worsens further still after James Vaughn shows up at his door. As Haggard treats the young pilot for a minor wound (he has become the local RAF surgeon), he notices that James has a feminized body habitus--gynecomastia, lack of body hair, broad hips, narrow shoulders, and pre-pubertal penis. He interprets this as "a pituitary disorder" and attempts to convince James that he needs treatment. James is repulsed by these advances, which eventually escalate.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film traces the shared career and dissolution of Beverly and Elliot Mantle, male identical twins (both played, thanks to seamless special effects, by Jeremy Irons) who are gynecologists, running a successful fertility clinic in Toronto in the 1980’s. They share both work and personal lives; Elliot, the dominant twin, lectures at the hospital, accepts awards, plays the smooth professional--and seduces women. Beverly, the quiet one, sees patients, does research--and sometimes has affairs with women his brother passes on to him.

They usually draw the line at patients, not because of ethics, but because "it’s not safe." Their dealings with women have to be carefully compartmentalized, for the ambiguous intimacy of the gynecological doctor-patient relationship is difficult and dangerous for the twins, who form a psychologically unstable and deeply interdependent relationship on their own, likening themselves to the original Siamese twins, Eng and Chang, whose names they eventually take on, too.

Their symbiotic system is disrupted when a television actress, Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold), consults them about her infertility. She has a trifurcate uterus--the twins call her a "mutation"--and will never have children. Elliot, fascinated, seduces her, and then gives her to Beverly, who falls in love, with disastrous consequences. When Claire discovers that they’ve deceived her and temporarily leaves, Beverly becomes addicted to the amphetamines and sleeping pills that Claire habitually abuses.

The drugs impair his work, he begins to hurt patients, is hospitalized, and after a calamitous breakdown in the operating room (where Beverly attempts to use the monstrously beautiful surgical instruments he designed himself

"for operating on mutant women") both brothers keep their hospital privileges only on condition that they don’t use them. Elliot tries to rehabilitate Beverly, but realizes that the need to do so comes from their absolute interdependence--they might as well be physically joined. So Elliot begins taking drugs as well, and when Claire returns and Beverly goes back to her, Elliot breaks down completely.

The rest of the film traces Beverly’s failed attempt to become a separate individual. The instruments he invented are now, he says, "for separating Siamese twins," and, in a terrifying surgery scene, the drugged Beverly "operates" on his conscious though equally drugged brother, apparently disemboweling him. Next morning, Beverly leaves the apartment where his dead brother lies and calls the woman he loves, but he cannot talk to her. He goes back, his bid for independent identity a failure, and the film ends on a shot of the two, dead, in an embrace echoing the Renaissance anatomical illustrations of in utero twins which illuminate the film’s opening credits.

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