Showing 31 - 40 of 78 annotations contributed by Kohn, Martin

Dying

Dyak, Miriam

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

A series of fifty-one poems recounting the death from colon cancer of one member of "a community of four people, two women and two men--potter, woodworker, poet, musician." These poems (actually one long narrative poem) convey the full range of emotions of someone who never before had been deeply involved in the process of dying.

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The Linden Tree

Leffland, Ella

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

George, a strong introverted African-American man and Guilio, a delicate and flighty Italian man, have been lovers for many decades. Guilio's deteriorating heart condition strains their relationship. Guilio is haunted by childhood death fantasies and George becomes frustrated trying to help him to deal with his illness and his fears. In the end, however, George is comforted by Guilio, who has sensed his pain and grief over being the surviving partner.

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What are Tuesdays Like?

Bumbalo, Victor

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This AIDS play removes "the fourth wall" of a waiting room at an HIV clinic. Using numerous scenes the audience is able to sense how over a period of time a group of strangers thrown together by circumstance "travel the way to friendship, and, finally to family." (from author's note) Juxtaposed through the characters in this play are boundary issues dealing with differences and similarities among gay/straight, rich/poor, black/white, sick/healthy responses to HIV/AIDS.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

A one-person performance of thirteen characters during a single night on a hospice unit. Portrayed are patients, family members and professional caregivers. With minimal lighting and few props the actor/writer, who has been a hospice volunteer for many years, is able to capture in words and action the poignancy and humor of caring for the dying.

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Summary:

Howard Carter very skillfully weaves together the various meanings that the heart holds for us--biological, medical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual. He does so through four patients that he interviewed when he was appointed to a distinguished professorship in medical humanities in a joint program of St. Patrick Hospital and the University of Montana, in Missoula.

Each of the sections of the book focuses on one of the patients who suffers, respectively, from a prototypical heart problem: a young man with congenital defects who undergoes successful surgery; a middle-aged woman with a viral illness who learns how to live with her chronic heart condition; a middle-aged man whose blocked coronary arteries are cleared, as is the stress in his life; and an old man who turns to spiritual matters as he faces heart failure.

What contribute significantly to the uniqueness of this book are the essays that Carter provides at the end of each Patient Section. They are the vehicles for the synthesis of the patient stories, the scholarly look at how "we have largely lost the anchoring image of the heart" in American society, and his very poignant personal reflections about life in (or at least near) the wilderness of Montana. (See Solid Footing, Higher Ground -Third Essay as an excellent example of his skillful and moving writing.)

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was born in Switzerland in 1926. She was part of a package deal--a triplet (and a two-pounder at that). That she survived the birth (as did her two sisters, another two pounder and a more robust six pounder) is something of a miracle. As she explains, her early childhood was filled with other more memorable experiences around death as well, including a long battle with pneumonia and deathbed scenes of neighbors in her small town.

In the aftermath of World War II, she was a volunteer in IVSP, International Voluntary Service for Peace. She spent time in Poland and then Germany, aiding survivors of the concentration camps, as well as the defeated Germans, to rebuild their lives. She returned to Switzerland and went to medical school, eventually marrying an American student studying there.

After practicing as a small town family doctor, she came to the U.S. in the 1950s. Her plans to serve a residency in pediatrics were changed to psychiatry (because they didn’t want someone who was pregnant). In Denver, after residency, she was asked to lecture to medical students. She chose a topic that was out of the ordinary, but something she felt at home with--death and dying.

In 1965, in Chicago, she continued her work in this area. At the urging of some theology students she began a weekly seminar with dying patients, health professions students, (and eventually ) their more skeptical teachers. This experience led to the publication, in 1969, of her book, On Death and Dying. It is in this book that the "stages" of dying are discussed. The remainder of The Wheel of Life deals with more controversial aspects of Kubler-Ross’s life.

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Leopold's Maneuvers

Davis, Cortney

Last Updated: Jan-11-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Leopold's Maneuvers is Cortney Davis's award-winning collection featuring 40 poems in two sections, in addition to the title poem. Thirty of the poems have been previously published in journals and anthologies such as Crazyhorse, Witness, Poetry, and Intensive Care. The content of the poems can roughly be divided into four categories: Nursing (e.g. "Leopold's Maneuvers," Examining the Abused Woman," "Water Story"); Domestic Remembrance (e.g. "Treatment," "The Brightest Star is Home," "When My Father's Breathing Stopped," "Everything in Life is Divided"); Flights of Imagination (e.g. "Shipwreck," "The Jar Beside the Bed"); and not unexpectedly, a Blend of the Realms in which she lives, works and dreams (e.g. "Mother's Gloves," "Confessions").

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The Last Deal

Groopman, Jerome

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

A desperate patient visits a renowned oncologist with hope for a miraculous cure of his kidney cancer. The patient, a venture capitalist, doesn't want to die--can't face his death. He is willing to take whatever risk is necessary to survive. After a grueling course of experimental treatment and an expected period of remission, the cancer returns, leaving the patient (according to the physician-author) with an awful ending to his life--a death filled with regret.

What is revealed as Groopman deliberately walks "along the milestones" of his patient's life is more than the patient's story, however. For in addition to a chronicle of the disease's effect on his patient, the physician himself, and his concerns about the proper use of his knowledge and powerful tools also are revealed.

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Whose Body is it Anyway?

Gawande, Atul

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Atul Gawande, a surgical resident at Harvard Medical School, asks in his well written essay, "when you see your patient making a grave mistake, should you simply do what the patient wants?" (p. 86) He answers this question by sharing a number of cases from his training that suggest that the orthodoxy of 'absolute respect for patient autonomy' may interfere with good patient care.

Gawande also gives the reader insight into the difficulties that young residents especially have in developing an artful approach to medical practice. He suggests that part of respecting autonomy is (at appropriate times) allowing patients to cede that autonomy to an authority figure. He argues further that, "patients frequently don't want the freedom that we've given them." (p. 89)

He also shares in his essay a personal experience with his youngest child. She was a premature baby who at eleven days old ended up in the intensive care unit. He was glad to put the ultimate decision(s) of how to care for his daughter in the hands of physicians--"they could live with the consequences, good or bad." (p. 90)

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Complications

Wasserstein, Wendy

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

A chance meeting with her former and most compassionate fertility doctor brought Wendy Wasserstein (at age 48, and after 8 years of effort) back to his fertility clinic. Two weeks later she got the news that she was pregnant, and six months after that, just as she was getting ready to tell her friends "that the twenty pounds I had gained were not the result of bad habits and anxiety," she developed preeclampsia and was hospitalized.

What follows in this ’Annals of Motherhood’ memoir is an account of her hospitalization; her subsequent delivery 16 days later of 1lb., 12oz. daughter, Lucy Jane (Lucy’s waving hand sonogram picture reminded Wasserstein of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"); and her separation from Lucy, who spent two months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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