Showing 201 - 210 of 228 annotations tagged with the keyword "Humor and Illness/Disability"

This Goes with This

Goldsworthy, Peter

Last Updated: Feb-29-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The poems in this collection are elegant, economical, worldly, and humorous. The tone is generally one of amused ruefulness. In "Alcohol" the poet addresses his subject as "the eighth / and shallowest / of the seven seas." He salutes the "nice" people, "on whom depends / the diminishing goodness of the world."

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Travels with John Hunter

Murray, Les

Last Updated: Jan-27-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem's title refers to John Hunter Hospital, where Les Murray lay near death for three weeks as a result of a liver condition. He "turned yellow as the moon / and slid inside a CAT-scan wheel," then found himself emerging from a "time warp" of unconsciousness 20 days later. Murray reports that he is "the only poet whose liver / damage hadn't been self-inflicted."

He goes on to explain what had happened to make his liver rehearse "the private office of the grave." When he was over the crisis, he signed a "Dutch contract," presumably an advance directive of some sort. Surprisingly, surviving his bout of acute liver failure seemed to cure his other problem, "the Black Dog, depression." The poem ends with a paean of gratitude for "the project of seeing conscious life / rescued from death." [80 lines]

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Hilda's Wedding

Jolley, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jan-27-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story takes place late at night in the quiet wards of a hospital. Some of the staff are kidding around about Night Sister Bean, who is supposedly a witch, but is now off-duty because she had an operation. Hilda from Housekeeping is pregnant again.

Since Hilda is unmarried, some of her co-workers come up with the idea of giving her a proper wedding. The Casualty Porter volunteers to be the groom. They just manage to complete the fanciful night wedding when Hilda goes into labor. Her baby is born in an elevator on the way to the maternity ward.

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The Doctor's Dilemma

Shaw, George Bernard

Last Updated: Jan-24-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The story opens on the day that Ridgeon, a prominent research doctor, is knighted. His friends gather to congratulate him. The friends include Sir Patrick, a distinguished old physician; Walpole, an aggressive surgeon; Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington, a charismatic society doctor; and Blenkinsop, a threadbare but honest government doctor. Each one has his favorite theory of illness and method of cure. These are incompatible--one man's cure is another man's poison. Nonetheless, they all get along.

A young woman (Mrs. Dubechat) desperately seeks help for her husband from Ridgeon, who has evidently found a way to cure consumption by "stimulating the phagocytes." Ridgeon initially refuses, but changes his mind for two reasons--Dubechat is a fine artist and Ridgeon is smitten with his wife.

When the doctors meet Dubechat, however, they find that he is a dishonest scoundrel. Ridgeon eventually decides to treat Blenkinsop (who also has consumption) and refer the artist to Bloomfield Bonington, this insuring that he will die. In the end Ridgeon justifies his behavior as a plan to let Dubechat die before his wife find out what an amoral cad he actually was. This, in fact, happens and Dubechat's artistic reputation soars.

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Net Worth

Van Peenen, H. J.

Last Updated: Jan-21-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This is a collection of medically related stories and poetry, most of which were previously published in medical journals like JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), Annals of Internal Medicine, and the American Journal of Medicine. "Country Doctors of Humble Pie," "Boss Cow," and "Discipline" are humorous tales about small town medical practice. "Second Opinions," "Net Worth," and "Making Friends" are stories of patients and their idiosyncrasies.

"Hafiz Ali Goes Home" concerns a dying man who wishes to return to his home village to die, rather than dying in the sterile confines of the hospital. The story details the misadventures of Hafiz Ali's two sons as they attempt to carry out his last request.

Many of the poems deal with clinical diagnoses ("Zoster" and "Lupus Erythematosis") or the history of medicine ("Towne of Guy's" and "The Turning"). "Doing Post-Mortems" is a thoughtful poem about the war (or relationship?) between the sexes in medicine.

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Vanishing Lung Syndrome

Holub, Miroslav

Last Updated: Oct-27-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Once in a while someone fights for breath. The crowd around him continues with its business, not realizing that inside the man there might be something drastic going on. There might be a sea monster growing, or a raven named Nevermore, or "a huge muteness of fairy tales," or "the wood-block baby that gobbles up everything." Medical tests show that the lung is vanishing and becoming "an abandoned room" in a queer world where "only surgeons / write poems." [34 lines]

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God Said, Ha!

Sweeney, Julia; Sweeney, Julia

Last Updated: Oct-27-1999
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Julia Sweeney performs on film the dramatic monologue that she wrote and performed "live" on stage. The period of her life on which she focuses are the nine months of her brother's dying, when he and her parents moved into her home--an idyllic bungalow that she had set up for herself, following her recent divorce. Instead of having the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of being single again, she is thrust into the thicket of family relationships, the sadness of her brother's poor health, and the demands made by his treatment for lymphoma.

Her parents, she says, have always been for her a "source of comedy, or a reason to be in therapy." These are the resources Sweeney is able to tap as she comments with humor and insight on living like a child in her own home, as her mother takes over the household and bickers with her father, who is drinking too much. But even as she jokes about the clash in lifestyles between herself and her parents (after all, she hasn't lived with them for 16 years), she weaves into the narrative the nature of life with her brother, whom she accompanies for his daily radiation treatments and whom she ministers to as he undergoes chemotherapy.

While not minimizing the seriousness of her brother's illness, she (as well as he) can find the surreal humor in their medical encounters. Thus Julia Sweeney describes how, when scar tissue prevents further injection into his spinal fluid and the doctors recommend a brain "shunt" for that purpose, assuring them that other patients "love their shunts," brother Mike not only agrees to the procedure, but adopts the slogan, "I love my shunt" for every conceivable situation.

The surreal becomes the real when Julia learns that she too has cancer--a rare form of cervical cancer that will require a hysterectomy. Even as she describes her shock and horror at this new blow, Sweeney takes comfort in Mike's sense of humor: he accuses her of getting even with him for taking "the cancer spotlight." Her narration of picking up her own pathology slides and of making the decision not to have her ova ("eggs") harvested and fertilized are both funny and poignant.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

Editors Angela Belli, professor of English at St. John’s University in New York, and Jack Coulehan, physician-poet and director of the Institute for Medicine in Contemporary Society at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, have selected 100 poems by 32 contemporary physician-poets for this succinct yet meaty anthology. The book is subdivided into four sections, each of which is prefaced by an informative description and highlights of the poems to follow.

Section headings take their names from excerpts of the poems contained therein. There are poems that describe individuals--patients, family members ("from patient one to next"), poems that consider the interface between personal and professional life ("a different picture of me"), poems that "celebrate the learning process" ("in ways that help them see"), and poems in which the poet’s medical training is brought to bear on larger societal issues ("this was the music of our lives").

Several of the poems have been annotated in this database: Abse’s Pathology of Colours (9); Campo’s Towards Curing AIDS (13) and What the Body Told (94); Coulehan’s Anatomy Lesson (97), I’m Gonna Slap Those Doctors (21), The Dynamizer and the Oscilloclast: in memory of Albert Abrams, an American quack (129); Moolten’s Motorcycle Ward (105); Mukand’s Lullaby (33); Stone’s Talking to the Family (79) and Gaudeamus Igitur (109).

Other wonderful poems by these authors are also included in the anthology, e.g. Her Final Show by Rafael Campo, in which the physician tends to a dying drag queen, finally "pronouncing her to no applause" (11); "Lovesickness: a Medieval Text" by Jack Coulehan, wherein the ultimate prescription for this malady is to "prescribe sexual relations, / following which a cure will usually occur" (131); "Madame Butterfly" by David N. Moolten, in which the passengers in a trolley car are jolted out of their cocoons by a deranged screaming woman (142).

Space prohibits descriptions of all 100 poems, but each should be read and savored. Some others are particularly memorable. "Carmelita" by D. A. Feinfeld tells of the physician’s encounter with a feisty tattooed prisoner, who ends up with "a six-inch steel shank" through his chest as the physician labors futiley to save him (23). In "Candor" physician-poet John Graham-Pole struggles with having to tell an eight-year old that he will die from cancer (27). Audrey Shafer writes of a Monday Morning when she makes the transition from the "just-awakened warmth" of her naked little son to tend to the patient whom she will anesthetize "naked under hospital issue / ready to sleep" (72).

In "The Log of Pi" Marc J. Straus muses about being asked "the question / I never knew" that he "pretend[s] not to hear" whose "answer floats on angel’s lips / and is whispered in our ear just once" (113). Richard Donze wants to know why "Vermont Has a Suicide Rate" (132). Vernon Rowe remembers the "hulk of a man" who shriveled away from an abdominal wound and begged, " ’Let me go, Doc,’ / and I did" (44).

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This book includes 28 short stories and 10 vignettes written during the period 1881 through 1887 and published in popular Moscow and St. Petersburg magazines. None were included in the Collected Works published during Chekhov's lifetime, nor in the multiple volume Tales of Chekhov translated into English by Constance Garnett early in the 20th century. Nine of these stories appeared as a set called Intrigues: Nine Stories by Anton Chekhov in The Atlantic Monthly in 1998 (see annotation in this database).

A number of these stories involve medical or health related situations. "Village Doctors" (1882) is a comic tale of two physician's assistants blundering their way through a morning clinic, while the doctor is out hunting with the district police officer. "A Hypnotic Séance" (1883) reveals a hypnotist who, in desperation, pays his subject to simulate a trance and save the show. "At the Pharmacy" (1885) sketches a scene that many readers will recognize, a rigid and unfeeling health care provider (in this case a pharmacist) and a desperate patient. "Intrigues" (1887) presents a puffed-up and paranoid physician who is about to attend an inquiry regarding a medical mistake that he has made.

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A Poet in the Family

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This short, anecdotal autobiography begins with the author's birth in Cardiff in 1923 and ends in the mid-1960's when the author had become a successful writer and physician in London. Much of the story concerns Abse's childhood and youth. The theme is self-definition: how did it come about that, like Anton P. Chekhov, the young Dannie Abse chose to devote his life to "chasing two hares" (medicine and writing).

His lower middle-class Jewish parents, especially his father, found no redeeming social value in having a poet in the family. Influenced by his older brother Wilfred (who became a psychoanalyst), Dannie gravitated toward medicine as a career, although he almost fainted when he observed his first surgery.

When Dannie was a student in London, poetry energized his life. He published "After Every Green Thing," his first volume of poetry, while still in medical training (1949). He also met Joan, his future wife, in 1949 and they were married in 1951.

He was assigned to reading chest x-rays while serving his time in the Royal Air Force. Subsequently, Dannie took a part-time job as a civilian in the RAF chest clinic in London and began his dual career as chest physician and writer. Near the end of A Poet in the Family, Dannie describes the death of his father in Llandough Hospital in 1964.

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