Showing 191 - 200 of 244 annotations tagged with the keyword "Medical Advances"

Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Born breech and deprived of oxygen for two hours, Irish poet and writer Christopher Nolan was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and is unable to speak and virtually unable to move voluntarily. His book, subtitled "The Life Story of Christopher Nolan," is narrated as a third person account of the life of "Joseph Meehan." The memoir opens with Meehan's winning the British Spastics' Society Literary Award for his first book of poetry, Dam-Burst of Dreams (1988) and ends with his last day at Trinity College, having turned down the invitation to continue his studies there towards a degree.

In the mixture of linear, traditional life narrative and lyrical, neologistic description that falls in between, the memoir addresses Meehan's birth, early life, education, and growing acclaim as a poet and writer. It recounts how his family and teachers helped develop a combination of medication, tools (a "unicorn-stick" attached to his forehead), and assistance that allowed him to type.

It details, above all, how various family, friends, and health and education professionals advocated Meehan's special-school and mainstream education and made available to him such normative life experiences as riding a pony, boating, fishing, skipping school with his mates, and going on school trips without his parents--and such unusual life experiences as becoming an award-winning writer.

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The Immortals

Borges, Jorge Luis

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This short story begins with a summary of the tale of Guillermo Blake, who believed that "the five senses obstruct or deform the apprehension of reality." The narrator then relates the tale to his own experience: upon visiting his gerontologist for a check-up, he is informed of a procedure that confers immortality. The "immortals" are reduced to living brains within wooden cubes, their bodies having been replaced by "formica, steel, plastics." The narrator tries not to show his horror, but moves immediately to a different part of the country under an alias.

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Fortitude

Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

In "Fortitude" Dr. Elbert Little, a Vermont family physician, visits the laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein and his trusty assistant, Dr. Tom Swift. Frankenstein has only one patient, Sylvia Lovejoy. His life work has been to keep Lovejoy alive. In 78 operations over the last 36 years, Frankenstein has replaced every one of her organs with prosthetic devices, so that now she consists of a head on a tripod, attached by tubes to various machines.

Frankenstein controls her mood, as he controls all her functions, from a "fantastically complicated" master console. Usually he makes sure that she feels joyful and loving, but last month a transistor went bad in one of the machines and she felt depressed for a while; so depressed, in fact, that she wrote to Dr. Little and asked him to bring her some cyanide.

Lovejoy's only friend is Gloria, the beautician who comes every day to care for her hair. Gloria is horrified over what Sylvia Lovejoy has become; she sees only a "spark" of the real person remaining, but she knows that the "spark" wants to die. After Frankenstein fires Gloria for speaking about death in Sylvia's presence, she sneaks back into the room when Sylvia is sleeping and puts a loaded revolver in her knitting bag.

Later, Sylvia finds the gun and tries to kill herself, but her prosthetic arms have been designed not to allow her to do that. Instead, she shoots Frankenstein, who promptly becomes the second head attached to the machines. (It seems he has designed all the prosthetic organs to be able to serve two "persons," so that he and Sylvia will be able to "live in such perfect harmony . . . that the gods themselves will tear out their hair in envy!")

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Imelda

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A physician recounts an experience he had assisting an American plastic surgeon as he performed charity surgery in Honduras. One young woman, Imelda, dies of malignant hyperthermia prior to surgical repair of her cleft lip. After her death, the surgeon returns to the patient to finish the surgery. The narrator tries to imagine the surgeon's motivation for this act, as well as the family's reaction to it.

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The Mysteries Within

Nuland, Sherwin

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In The Mysteries Within, Sherwin Nuland takes the reader on a guided tour of selected organs inside the human body. Beginning with the stomach, he progresses along to visit the liver, spleen, heart, uterus, and ovaries. At each point he addresses various historical and contemporary beliefs, as promised in the book's subtitle, "A Surgeon Reflects on Medical Myths." Nuland brings to this endeavor the patented mixture of personal story, elucidation of medical history, and plain old good writing that characterizes all of his books.

For example, he devotes the first three chapters to the stomach. The first consists mostly of a brilliant clinical tale in which a six-week-old baby is found to have a wax bezoar in his stomach. The second and third provide a cogent survey of beliefs about the stomach's function, beginning with Greek humoral theory, continuing through van Helmont and the iatrochemists, and ending with Ivan Petrovich Pavlov and his seminal monograph, The Work of the Digestive Glands.

Van Helmont and his mentor, Paracelsus, appear again and again in later chapters as the earliest champions of the idea that the body runs by means of chemical processes (iatrochemistry). However, as Nuland points out, Paracelsus has left us two different legacies. One is his devotion to chemistry and experimentation, which eventually led to modern biological science. The other is his devotion to alchemy and mysticism, which makes him as well a forerunner of contemporary irrational systems of healing.

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Hearing Impairment

Murray, Les

Last Updated: Dec-27-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Hearing loss? Yes, loss is what we hear / who are starting to go deaf. This humorous poem surveys the specific deficits and behaviors that people develop as they progressively lose their hearing. Eventually they reach the point of needing hearing aids and being "wired / back into a slightly thinned world / with a faint plastic undertone to it."

An especially disabling (and potentially humorous) aspect of hearing loss is the inability to decipher speech. The poem provides several examples of garbled interpretation. In the first stanza, "the sad surrealism of the deaf" becomes "dad's a real prism of the Left, " thereby giving a verbal and visual example of the meaning of the phrase. Another illustration: "Hearing Impairment" ends with the line "I'm sorry, sir. It's a red alert!" An urgent statement that earlier in the stanza the hearing-impaired narrator has understood to mean, "a warrior is a ready flirt." [50 lines]

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The Healing Muse

St. Andrews, B. A. (Bonnie)

Last Updated: Dec-19-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The first poem in this chapbook ("Sonogram") contains two images of a small, mysterious life (the fetus imagined as a "white boat on whiter water" and as a "tiny orca") in the midst of the coldly technical medical world. This juxtaposition is characteristic of B. A. St. Andrews's poems in this small collection. In most of them, she uses disciplined and sparkling language to explore the interface between modern medicine with its impersonal machinery and the irreducible mystery of life.

Some of the images are simply breathtaking. For example, in "A Dying Art: Room 309," a terminally ill artist lies in bed, surrounded by "plastic bags that hang / like udders dripping pigment / into her." In a love poem called "The Body of Science," the poet confesses, "Each time your voluntary / muscles make contact / my involuntary ones / contract." And at the end of "Alzheimer's," she observes, "She stood at the big bay / window screaming but he never / heard what it was she never said."

The four poems entitled "Your Breast a Unicorn" consider the fate of breasts attacked "at consolation's center" by "one aberrant cell metastasized." These learned, wise, and witty poems are, in my opinion, among the very best of the breast cancer genre.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Referring to Francis Bacon's 17th-century definition of modern science as the conquest of nature "for the relief of man's estate," Kass looks with concern at the ironic possibility that future advances in medical science and technology may lead to the significant diminishing of humankind. Thus he asks, what price will we wind up paying for medical progress? Kass is concerned about the disconnect between modern medicine, with its powers to extend our controls over life and death and over many human potentials, and, on the other hand, traditional social and individual values.

He argues particularly for serious consideration of values in three areas: (1) distributive justice (which for Kass is, finally, the question as to who shall do the distributing), (2) the "use and abuse of power" (in which he focuses on the process by which power over nature becomes turned into power of some humans over others), and (3) "voluntary self-degradation and dehumanization" (two major concerns being the concept of the optimum baby and the development of technologies of pleasure).

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August

Young, C. Dale

Last Updated: May-31-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

August is divided into two sections: "On the Corner of Fourth & Irving" and "To Marie Curie." The narrator, on a street corner in San Francisco near the teaching hospitals and medical school of University of California, San Francisco, meditates on the recurrence of lymphoma in a patient. Evening is approaching, fog blows in from the ocean, and the city pigeons are unsettled--landing and taking flight.

The meditation includes a tribute to Madame Curie and her discovery of the effects of radium. The patient had had a good chance of cure by radiation treatment--unfortunately, this patient is in the twenty percent who are not cured. The narrator, probably a physician-in-training due to the load of textbooks, had read the patient's chest x-ray as negative (normal) previously.

By the end of the poem, we learn that the physician had felt enlarged lymph nodes in this patient's neck today and he bluntly states: "I have failed. He has not been cured." The poem closes with the sound of the wind and the "beating and beating of wings."

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A Sudden, Fearful Death

Perry, Anne

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In mid-19th century London, a young nurse is found brutally strangled at the Royal Free Hospital. One of the hospital's Board of Governors, Lady Callandra Daviot, engages her friend former Inspector William Monk to investigate the killing. The victim was not an ordinary Victorian nurse, most of whom were poorly educated, morally suspect, and distinctly lower class. Rather, the dead woman came from a middle class family and was an outspoken professional who had worked side-by-side with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.

In fact, Nurse Prudence Barrymore had had pretensions of studying to become a doctor--an unthinkable goal for a Victorian woman! As Monk and his colleague, Hester Latterly--another Crimean nurse--investigate the inner workings of the Royal Free Hospital, they soon discover a quagmire of secret passions and deceit.

Monk gains access to letters from Nurse Barrymore to her married sister that appear to incriminate Sir Herbert Stanhope, the hospital's leading surgeon and a paragon of propriety. Was Sir Herbert Nurse Barrymore's secret lover? As Sir Herbert's trial progresses, it appears that he was, but then events suddenly take an unexpected turn.

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