Showing 171 - 180 of 375 annotations tagged with the keyword "Trauma"

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:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This collection of nonfiction writings by fiction author Amy Tan includes multiple genres: essay, email, responses to journalist's questions, eulogy, love poem, university presentations, travel journal entries, and a commencement speech. Hence Tan terms the work "musings." Consonant with the multiple genres are multiple topics, ranging from memoirs of childhood and young adulthood, writing tips, fun portraying a dominatrix in a writers' rock-n-roll band, work on the film version of The Joy Luck Club, and past and present tragedies and struggles.

Much of the book, however, centers on medically-related themes. Prominent themes are: her diagnosis of neuroborreliosis--a form of late-stage Lyme disease--detailed in the final essay entitled "The Opposite of Fate"; her traumas such as the torture and murder of her best friend; the death of her father and brother from brain tumors; a car and a skiing accident; the cancer death of her editor and, woven throughout, the complicated psyche of her mother, Daisy Tan.

Daisy's extreme emotions ruled the family, and her behaviors, such as threatening not only suicide but also murder (she held a knife to Amy's throat), caused profound responses in her daughter. Probably one of the most adaptive responses was Amy Tan's use of their complex relationship in developing the nuanced mother-daughter relationships that characterize her fiction. Daisy's decline and death from Alzheimer's disease are also detailed here.

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Soldiers Cry by Night

Matute, Ana Maria

Last Updated: Sep-08-2006
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Toward the end of the Spanish Civil War, Manuel’s biological father, Jorge de Son Major, dies, finally recognizing him in his will. His social father, Jose Taronji, had been killed only two years before. Manuel, newly rich but philosophically impoverished, seeks a secular spiritual father in "Jeza", an imprisoned rebel leader, and Jose’s comrade. When Jeza is killed, Manuel informs his wife, Marta, and together they plan a final revolt. They use Jorge de Son Major’s boat, Antinea, to deliver rebel documents, then make one final, "crazy," fatal stand, to honor and mourn Jeza, to remember and create themselves.

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Out of the Woods

Offutt, Chris

Last Updated: Sep-05-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Gerald has just married into a close knit Kentucky family. So when the kin receive word that Ory, one of his wife’s brothers, was shot by his girlfriend, Gerald gets the job of driving to Nebraska to pick him up. When he arrives in Wahoo, the Indian doctor at the hospital tells him that Ory had a "blood clot" and died.

The sheriff takes Gerald to the jail to meet Ory’s girlfriend, who shot him in an argument about a wig. Later, he decides to take Ory back to Kentucky. Two days later he arrives home with the corpse covered with dirt in the back of his pickup. "The stench was bad and getting worse." (p. 31)

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In 1996, at the age of 31, David Biro is preparing for his specialty examinations in dermatology and is set to share a practice with his father. But he develops a visual disturbance. After repeated testing, he is found to have the rare blood disorder of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. The diagnosis was problematic, but the treatment choices are overwhelming. His youngest sister is a suitable donor, and he opts for a bone marrow transplant. He realizes that his decision was influenced not only by the diagnosis, but also by his personality and his reaction to the physicians.

Advance preparations are hectic and sometimes comic, especially his deposits at a local sperm bank. The pain of the transplant and the six weeks imprisonment in a small hospital room are told in graphic detail. The athletically inclined doctor suffers many complications: exquisitely painful ulcers of the scrotum, mouth, and esophagus; inflammation of the liver; unexplained fever; drug-induced delirium; weakness and weight loss.

His parents, sisters and friends leap into action to provide round-the-clock presence, but his independent wife, Daniella, resents the invasion. While David’s body is wracked with drugs and radiation, his family and his marriage are subjected to destructive forces too. Yet all--body, family, and marriage--emerge intact, though changed, by their experience.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

Editor Chip Spann created this anthology as part of his Ph.D. dissertation in creative writing. The poems were selected because Spann hopes they "can be a comfort to the sick and a rabble-rouser for those who work at getting well" (5). The book’s 234 poems have been organized into seven sections, each section named with a phrase from one of the poems contained therein. Each section is prefaced by an introduction that focuses on Spann’s own journey from a difficult childhood and unanchored young adulthood to his current life in which he is able to combine a love of reading and writing poetry with his background of working with patients in a variety of settings -- he leads a writing group of patients, caregivers, and health professionals at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, California.

The seven sections concern: the body; illness and life’s journey as quest; "feelings that are screaming to get out"; looking inward at dark truths; reflecting on "early wounds"; finding creative inspiration from unexpected and small things; and "perspectives on death and aging." I counted approximately 80 poets who are represented in this anthology; those with the greatest representation (number of poems) are Raymond Carver, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, Grace Paley, Muriel Rukeyser, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi, May Sarton, William Stafford, and May Swenson.

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The Monster

Crane, Stephen

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A small-town doctor’s son is saved by a black man from a burning house. In gratitude, the doctor takes it upon himself to salvage the life of the badly burned and disfigured hero. Others warn him that he is doing no service to the patient, but the physician cannot let go of one whom he owes such a profound debt. The town begins to fear the newly created "monster." The burned man’s life becomes a nightmare of rejection; the physician and his family are progressively rejected by the community.

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Murder

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Matvey Terekhov lives with his cousin Yakov, who runs an inn. Matvey was once extremely religious and ascetic, but now has left asceticism behind. Yakov, on the other hand, is obsessively religious. At one point Matvey initiates an argument with Yakov about a religious issue. Yakov is overcome with anger and Aglaya, Yakov’s wife, hits Matvey over the head with a bottle, and kills him. Husband and wife are sent to prison in Siberia. While Yakov loses his faith after the murder, he regains it in prison.

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Mid-Term Break

Heaney, Seamus

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker is a boy away at school when the news comes that his four year old brother has been killed in an accident. Arriving home, "I met my father crying . . . " The boy is "embarrassed / By old men standing up to shake my hand / And tell me they were ’sorry for my trouble.’" The next morning the boy goes upstairs to see his brother lying "in the four foot box as in his cot." [22 lines]

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is trying to avenge the rape and murder of his wife. She was, as far as he can recall, killed by the same intruder who injured Leonard’s head, leaving him with "anterograde amnesia": he remembers everything up until the injury but no longer has short term memory. "I can’t make new memories. Everything fades."

Leonard’s single purpose now is to find and kill the person responsible for his wife’s death and his own disability. He remembers this purpose, and the steps in his progress towards it, by keeping annotated Polaroid photographs and tattooing important facts onto his body. At the end of the story--which is the beginning of the film--Leonard kills a man he believes to be the murderer, but who is probably not.

The story is narrated in reverse chronology, beginning with Leonard shooting the suspected killer, in short segments corresponding more or less to the length of Leonard’s ability to remember. These scenes are interspersed with parts of a longer scene that follows regular chronology, shot in black and white, in which Leonard sits in his motel room, talking on the telephone and telling the story of Sammy Jankis, a man he seems to remember from his earlier life as an insurance investigator.

Sammy suffered from anterograde amnesia after a car crash and Leonard dismissed his condition as psychological rather than physical, resulting in the refusal of Sammy’s insurance claim (the company doesn’t cover mental illness). Sammy’s diabetic wife, thinking that if the condition is mental it must also be voluntary, tries to get him to "snap out of it" by testing him in various ways: finally she tricks him into administering her insulin shot over and over until she dies. Sammy ends up institutionalized.

As we piece the story together, we realize that Leonard’s method for keeping track of his revenge plot is inadequate. Because the bits of information that substitute for memory can be manipulated, others are able to use him as an unwitting assassin. We also deduce that the story of Sammy Jankis may in fact be the story of Leonard Shelby, and that perhaps Leonard’s own wife was killed not by a murderer but by Leonard himself, the revenge motivation possibly planted by Teddy (possibly a cop) in order to make of Leonard a very efficient killer.

The story ends (where it begins) with Teddy’s plot turned against him by Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a mysterious woman who has revenge motives of her own. Leonard takes Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) for the killer and shoots him. Our chilling realization is that Leonard will soon forget he has achieved his objective and again begin looking for someone to kill.

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