Showing 181 - 190 of 199 annotations tagged with the keyword "Psycho-social Medicine"

Flowers for Algernon

Keyes, Daniel

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Charlie Gordon is a young man with an IQ of 68 who has a job at a box factory and attends night classes in an effort to improve himself. A (very fictional) experimental brain operation becomes available that promises to triple intelligence (it has already done so for a mouse named Algernon), and Charlie excitedly decides that he wants to give it a try. The story consists solely of Charlie's diary entries from the time he hears about the operation through the operation and his dramatic increase, and subsequent decrease, of IQ.

Charlie's increased intelligence opens up to him the understanding of everyday things that had been beyond his grasp, and at his peak he soars to the level of genius, ironically identifying the flaw in the scientific work of the two scientists who developed the operation he has undergone, and thus destroying their careers as their shallow research destroys the life that had been his.

Among the everyday things Charlie understands for the first time is the fact that two of his male co-workers have regularly taken advantage of his retarded state to make fun of him, sometimes roughly. Charlie also becomes self-conscious more generally, which makes it impossible for him to stay in the place where he has been so degraded, even after his formerly misbehaving pals become sympathetic.

At the end of the story he has fallen back to his original level of intelligence--and may continue to decline, if we take the suggestion from the fate of his fellow subject, Algernon, who rises, falls, and then dies. Charlie has only a dim memory of having done something important. His self-esteem is strong, however, and he decides to leave his familiar world and find a place where people won't know about his embarrassment.

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Courtyard with Lunatics

Goya, Francisco

Last Updated: May-04-1998
Annotated by:
Winkler, Mary

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on tin plate

Summary:

In a dark, stone enclosure numerous figures of indeterminate age and gender huddle in shadow while others crawl or writhe toward the murky foreground light. The visual center of the painting is the fierce struggle of two naked men whose grappling is made more agitated by the flailing whip of a dark, fully-clothed figure. Opening above the pen-like enclosure and the tormented figures is broad, white space, glowing with intense light--a shocking contrast to the darkness of this 18th century "snake pit." (See film annotation of The Snake Pit.)

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Together in the Dark

Colfelt, Robert

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of stories and sketches by a practicing neurologist. Most of the material is clinical and autobiographical. In "Mrs. Bachman" a new patient enters the doctor's office, carrying a thick stack of medical records. It all started in 1946 and no doctor has ever found the explanation of her condition. Meanwhile, the doctor is wearing contact lenses for the first time. His eyes begin to tear. Mrs. Bachman thinks that he is crying over her misfortune. She consoles him, "I want you to know that you are the kindest, most sympathetic man I have ever met."

In "Intensive Care" an elderly woman is agitated after a seizure. The staff try unsuccessfully to calm her. Finally, her husband approaches and kisses her. She settles peacefully and they hold hands.

The doctor in "Continuing Medical Education" finally discovers metastatic breast cancer as the cause of a psychotherapist's neck pain, long after he and other physicians had told her again and again that the "driving mechanism" of her chronic pain was "unresolved anger and frustration." In a longer essay, "The Narrow Bridge," the author reflects on the meaning of healing, "Healing helps us find a place in this world for ourselves and for each other."

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Heartpains

Izes, Joseph

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

An intern in internal medicine is frustrated by his weekly clinics; he seems unable to understand why most of his patients come to see him, why they seem happy when they leave, and wonders when he is going to have the chance to do "real" medicine, such as ordering tests and making sophisticated diagnoses. One day, he sees an elderly woman who had been worked up over the years for "heart pain" without finding a diagnosis. In the past she had seen other residents for no discernible reasons.

At this visit, the author recognizes that she seems upset, encourages her to talk, realizes that she reminds him of his grandmother. The woman reluctantly admits she has fallen in love with a younger man. The resident is respectful towards her, and recognizes the beautiful woman she had once been. He begins to realize that she has experienced much that he hasn't, and that she has much to teach him about life and about being human.

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To Hell with Dying

Walker, Alice

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Sweet is a neighbor of the narrator, who is initially a little girl summoned with the rest of her siblings whenever Mr. Sweet is threatening to die. The narrator describes how she and her brothers loved Mr. Sweet, despite the fact that he was an indifferent cotton farmer, a frequent drunk, and an inveterate smoker. Somehow the faults of the old man, including his falling-down bouts of drunkenness and his slovenly personal appearance, are not impediments to the devotion he inspires or the affection for him on the part of the narrator and her brothers.

Each time the children are summoned, Mr. Sweet is reputed to be at death's door. "To hell with dying," the narrator's father would say. "These children want Mr. Sweet!" Then the youngsters would leap on the man in bed and begin their miraculous revival. By turns tickling and kissing Mr. Sweet, the neighbor kids manage to revive him time after time. The narrator comes to have faith in her unfailing ability to bring him back to life, and several times the children succeed when the local doctor had given up hope.

Nearly two decades pass, and the narrator is in graduate school when another summons comes. She flies back to the rural South and hastens to the bedside of the old man, now over ninety. But this time, after a brief return to consciousness, Mr. Sweet dies.

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Communion

Weinberg, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The physician author is puzzled about what he can do to help a young woman who comes to him for treatment of her chronic abdominal pain. She has had every test, seen every specialist, and has no clear diagnosis. Only on the third visit, which she has initiated, does he discover that she was sexually assaulted at age 14. He is the only person she has told.

He immediately feels out of his element, and asks her to see a psychiatrist. She refuses, and insists he handle her care. He sets up open-ended visits to allow her time to talk, and looks for help in the medical literature and from a psychiatrist colleague.

Over time, as they explore her feelings and experiences, his patient gains self esteem and transforms herself into a confident, beautiful woman, planning on travel, school, and career. After her last visit with him, he realizes, "I had been chosen to receive a gift of trust, and of all the gifts I had ever received, none seemed as precious."

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Fitting Ends

Chaon, Dan

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, now a grown man, relates the story of his brother Del's troubled life and early death. The real story, however, concerns the narrator himself, as he reflects on his relationship with Del, his father's behavior toward both of them, and on the possibility that he (the narrator) played a role in Del's death.

When the narrator was fourteen, older brother Del--drunk at the time--was struck and killed by a train as he walked along the tracks. But the central event in the story is the narrator's betrayal of Del. Although Del had saved him from falling off a grain elevator roof, the narrator had falsely blamed Del for the near-fatal accident, out of fear of the father's fury, and because "After years of being on the receiving end, it wasn't in my nature to see Del as someone who could be wronged . . . ." [p. 57]

"My father had good reason to believe this lie . . . . " [p. 55] The incident occurred shortly after Del had been released from a juvenile detention facility--detained there for trying to strangle the narrator and threatening their father with a shotgun.

The narrator (later) finds in Del's notebook an essay revealing Del's intention to reform. But with the passage of time after the grain elevator episode, Del reverts to delinquent behavior; a year later he is dead. The narrator never reveals to his father the truth and the family never discusses Del's death.

At times, over the years, as the narrator searches for meaning and closure he believes he can "take all the loose ends of my life and fit them together perfectly . . . where all the details add up . . . ." [p. 68] In the end, however, we are left wondering whether this is possible--for the narrator--or for anyone.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A Tahitian female lies naked on her belly, terrified by the presence of the spirit of death. Behind her, with an averted phosphorescent eye, the spirit is personified in the form of a harmless old woman dressed in a black shawl. According to island mythology, the title has two meanings: either the young girl is thinking of the ghost, or the ghost is thinking of her. Bold ambiguous shapes and colors (yellow blanket, blue pareu, phosporescent greenish sparks on a violet background) intensify the eerie atmosphere and enigmatic quality of the painting.

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Kitchen Table Wisdom

Remen, Rachel Naomi

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

The author, a pediatrician by training who has gradually moved into psycho-oncology and training others in relationship centered care, writes about life in this collection of short vignettes and analyses. She blends stories of her own experiences as patient and as woman with those she has gathered from a long history of patient encounters. There is no temporal sequence, but the work is grouped into thematic segments. The author shares selected, carefully garnered and assessed narratives of life events intended to be spiritually healing to those who are ill or who care for the sick.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Narrated in the style of an "advice" manual, this is the chronicle of a woman who undergoes a hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries. The tone is sardonic. The story begins with the office visit in which the doctor delivers the news and reassures her that she is too "intelligent and sophisticated" to associate her womanhood with her reproductive organs. The physician attempts to persuade the narrator to have her ovaries removed--preventive medicine against the possibility of ovarian cancer--and she finally agrees while groggy from pre-operative anaesthesia. Nothing has prepared her for the emotional and physical lability she experiences after surgery. Even her sexual relationship with her husband is changed.

As she returns for post-operative check-ups, she becomes increasingly conscious of the indignities of the office visit and physical examination: "it strikes [her] that this maximum-efficiency set-up [three cubicles with naked, waiting women] might serve equally well for a brothel and perhaps already does." She feels that she has made a terrible mistake in allowing the doctor to have talked her into anything and that as a male, "there is nothing he can tell you about how you feel, for the simple reason that he does not know."

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