Showing 181 - 190 of 360 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Hurston's powerful, lyric second novel centers on Janie Crawford, an African-American woman who tells her life story to her friend, Phoeby. Janie, raised in rural west Florida by her grandmother, is forced to marry, at age sixteen, a landowner, Logan Killicks. Far from giving her stability and respectability, Killicks instead treats her like a mule. Her image of love and life as a beautiful blossoming pear tree that grew in her grandmother's yard is dashed by the harsh realities of this loveless marriage.

She leaves Killicks to marry Joe Starks, an ambitious businessman who builds and becomes the mayor of an all black town. Joe also treats her as property--as a showpiece to bolster his image in the town, and does not allow her to befriend any one else. When Joe dies after seventeen years, Janie is finally financially and spiritually independent.

She falls in love with a young roustabout, Tea Cake--a man who (mostly) treats her as an equal partner and who returns her love fully. Despite the townspeople's disapproval, Janie and Tea Cake leave the town to make their way in the Florida muck, working side by side as itinerant farm hands.

During a hurricane and flood, Tea Cake saves Janie from a mad dog, but gets bitten himself. Tea Cake later develops fulminant rabies and is too late to receive effective treatment. Tea Cake turns on Janie and she must defend herself. The novel closes back in the frame of telling the story to Phoeby, of teaching Phoeby about love: "Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore." Janie, reflective, mature, and strong, has gained wisdom from her life and suffering.

View full annotation

Summary:

This fine collection of writings by women involved in health care stems largely from a writing group cosponsored by the Nebraska Humanities Council and the Creighton University Center for Health Policy and Ethics. However, other writings also appear in this volume: in all there are 40 pieces by 16 authors. Writing genres include essay, short story, and poetry. The works are divided into three sections: Power and Powerlessness, Vulnerability and Voice, Connection and Disconnection. As noted in the introduction, these are "major themes in feminist perspectives in ethics" and the works are offered as reflections on modern ethical dilemmas in health care.

Some of the most powerful pieces are stories about being the newcomer--the student or junior trainee. For instance, "Washing Cora's Hair" by co-editor Amy Haddad is a poignant look at the struggle of two young nursing students to wash the long braids of a bed-bound elderly woman in her cramped home, and "The Story of David" by Ruth Purtilo, written as a memoir looking back to when she was a newly graduated physical therapist, concerns her interactions with a young, angry, depressed quadriplegic patient and with her superiors.

Another memorable piece is "The Things You Do" by Kelly Jennings Olsen. This story about being a new volunteer emergency medical technician masterfully controls the tensions of emergency medical care, the anguish of the father whose little girl slipped under his tractor, and the nuances of living in a small town. Several poems also deal with issues of the newcomer and witness to suffering (e.g., "As Ordered" by Ruth Ann Vogel--a poem about shaving the head of a neurosurgical patient on the pediatric ward)

As noted by the multiple keywords listed above, these pieces touch on many topics. Power relations play a key role, both between professionals and between patient and the health care team. For instance, in the polished story, "Procedures" the author Kim Dayton writes from the perspective of a young single mother with a critically ill neonate. This mother is repeatedly prevented from visiting her child because of "important" events like rounds and procedures, and she ironically only gets to hold her baby after the baby dies.

Throughout the collection the patients are described with honesty and vividness. Their suffering can haunt the health care worker ("Maggie Jones" by Veneta Masson) as well as teach ("Back to Square One" by Barbara Jessing). Many of the pieces remind us of our good fortune and the privilege we have in our lives and in providing health care services (e.g., "Spring Semester" by Amy Haddad). Ultimately in this volume our common humanity is emphasized--the connections between people and the remarkable grace that can be exhibited in the face of suffering.

View full annotation

The Man in the Box

Moran, Thomas

Last Updated: Nov-28-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Robert Weiss passes through the town of Sankt Vero in the Tirol and rents a room from the Lukasser family. During the night, the Lukasser's son, Niki, develops acute appendicitis; the visiting doctor operates right there on the kitchen table, saving the boy's life. Years later, when war rages in Europe, the Jewish doctor returns to Sankt Vero and knocks on the Lukasser's door. He tells of soldiers forcing men, women, and children into railroad cars, and how he himself--he who had saved Niki years before--needs asylum.

To hide Dr. Weiss, Mr. Lukasser boards him up in a small room in the back of the hayloft, a space one meter wide and three meters high. For two years, the doctor exists in this box. Niki and his friend, a blind girl named Sigi, bring Dr. Weiss food once a day and, for ten minutes or so, they stay and talk. Sustained by Niki and Sigi's lives--the stories of their discoveries of sexuality, cruelty, and love--the doctor survives.

Although Sigi is blind, she has the insight to recognize and try to alleviate the doctor's growing depression by encouraging him to tell his own stories. It is through these stories and through the doctor's observation of Sigi and Niki's blossoming adolescence and struggles with morality that we experience both the doctor's confinement and the powerful conflicts and transformations that rage behind the doors of Sankt Vero.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The story itself commences after the vituperative dedication to Robert Southey and several stanzas mocking contemporary heroes, with Don Juan's birth in Seville to Donna Inez and Don José. The adventures begin with his affair with Donna Julia, his mother's best friend. Donna Julia's husband, Don Alfonso discovers the secret romance, and Don Juan is sent to Cadiz. A shipwreck along the way sees him stranded, the lone survivor; there he meets a pirate's daughter, Haidée. Expelled from this paradise by Haidée's father, the pirate Lambro, he is captured, and sold into slavery.

Gulbayaz, one of the Sultan's harem, has him purchased and smuggled into her company dressed as a girl; after he spends the night in the bed of one of her courtesans, Gulbayaz threatens both with death. When next we see Don Juan, he has escaped. He joins in the Russian attack on Ismail, where he fights valiantly and rescues Leila, a Muslim child. They are taken to St Petersburg, where he impresses Catherine The Great and joins her entourage. Due to illness, he is sent to London, where, as an ambassador for Russia, he joins the Court and finds for Leila a suitable governess; the final cantos see him amongst the Lords and Ladies of British aristocracy, in particular Lady Adeline and the mysterious Aurora Raby.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

After a brief prologue, the book opens with a summary history of the development of medicine in the United State at the turn of the 20th century. The author introduces the reader to the characters—the physicians, the researchers, the officials of both military and civilian life, who will direct and mold the tale of the influenza pandemic of 1918. The story is developed generally along chronological lines with flashbacks where appropriate into the chains of command and the development of the great research institutes of America prior to World War I. The limitations of science going into the epidemic are explored; the struggles the researchers undertook to solve the mysteries of etiologic agent and mode of transmission, and the search for prevention and treatment dominate the exploration of this modern day pandemic. The Afterword opens the questions of when and where the next pandemic will surface and the possibility of learning from the horrors of The Great Influenza of c 19l8.

View full annotation

The Road

McCarthy, Cormac

Last Updated: Oct-25-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The world as everyone knew it ended years earlier when "the clocks stopped at 1:17" [p 45] and power was lost. Not many people are still alive. The landscape is charred and hostile with "cauterized terrain" [p 12], "ashen scabland" [p 13], and "the mummied dead everywhere" [p 20]. A father and his young son travel south towards the coast. The boy's mother has committed suicide. Papa and the child wear masks and tote knapsacks. The father pushes a shopping cart filled with potentially useful items that he has collected during the journey. The man keeps his pistol close. It only contains two bullets - one reserved for him and one for the boy.

The father and son follow a road towards the ocean, but they scurry and hide like two animals. Papa's biggest worries are marauders, food, and shoes. The world is cold. Rape and cannibalism are common occurrences. Although their goal is to remain alive and reach the coast, father and son wonder if the destination is any more hospitable than the rest of the dying world. Often hungry and freezing, both of them become sick. The boy contracts a febrile illness. The man frequently coughs blood and is wounded in the leg by an arrow.

Father and child ultimately reach the ocean, but it too is cold and dead. Not long after arriving at the coast, Papa dies. A stranger finds the grieving boy and invites the child to join his family - wife, son, and daughter. He assures the boy that he is a good man. He tells the child that his family does not eat other people. He advises the boy to hold onto his father's pistol.

View full annotation

If I'm Spared

Simpson, Helen

Last Updated: Oct-03-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A foreign correspondent accustomed to global calamities now finds himself entangled in a personal disaster. Tom is a middle-aged man with a weakness for cigarettes and women but not much interest in his wife, Barbara, and their young daughter. Tom develops a nagging cough. Night sweats, bloody sputum, and weight loss soon follow. He visits multiple physicians. A chest X-ray demonstrates a suspicious "shadow." Even before further testing is performed, a distinguished pulmonary specialist tells Tom that the diagnosis is lung cancer.

Tom and his wife search the Internet and worry even more when they learn about the harsh side effects of treatment and the dismal prognosis of the disease. Although he has smoked cigarettes since he was a teenager, Tom suddenly has little trouble quitting. He develops a greater appreciation of his wife and fondness for his daughter. If only he could have another chance at life, he would mend his ways and become a new man. The results of Tom's additional tests reveal a different diagnosis - tuberculosis. Tom and Barbara are ecstatic that he can be cured with a combination of five different medications. With the threat of cancer eliminated, Tom resumes all his old habits: smoking cigarettes, ignoring his wife, and flirting with women.

View full annotation

Dire Cure

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Sep-06-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a long (110 lines) narrative poem about the poet’s wife’s cancer, "large, rare and so anomalous / in its behavior that at first they mis- / diagnosed it." At first the poet personifies the cancer, then he demonizes the chemotherapy. He describes Tumor Hell and Tumor Hell Clinic, which "is, it turns out, a teaching hospital. / Every century or so, the way / we’d measure it, a chief doc brings a pack / of students round." Back on earth, his wife’s cancer is gone.

"This must be hell for you," some of his friends said. He reflects on the meaning of Sartre’s hell (created in Sartre’s own image) and Dante’s hell (created in his city’s image), and he considers the tumor’s name. He concludes that his wife should "think of its name and never / say it, as if it were the name of God."

View full annotation