Showing 311 - 320 of 428 annotations tagged with the keyword "Pain"

By the Bedside

Vivante, Arturo

Last Updated: May-30-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman lies in her bed, dying of cancer. Several family members have gathered in the room around her, including her son Bruno. From the age of 11 Bruno had wanted to be an artist, but had become a doctor instead because it was easier to make a living. "And medicine at one point--when he was nineteen or twenty--had seemed more humane than the humanities, more artful than art." Yet four years earlier, Bruno gave up his medical practice in Rome to devote his life to painting. But now he is back to medicine, helping to coordinate the efforts of his mother's physicians.

The dying woman sips an opium solution to ease her pain. She teases Bruno about the many times she had embarrassed him as a child, by acting funny or assertive or eccentric, behaving very differently from the other children's mothers. She would always make people laugh. Likewise, she was never confused about what she wanted. Even now, tipsy with opium, she remains in charge, a rock among the gathered family members, deflecting their sadness with her good humor.

View full annotation

Last Rites

Vivante, Arturo

Last Updated: May-10-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator's mother, having received "all the benefits of modern medicine," was still alive after 14 months. The son, himself a doctor, finally told her that she had cancer, after which she requested that she receive no treatment, other than pain control. Thus, her son provided her with a bottle of opium solution to use as needed. However, the other doctors continued their pretense that, if only she would take the "cure," she would get better.

She died six days later, "not slowly, like a train arriving at a station, but swiftly and convulsively, like a train derailing." She was buried without the priest's blessing because she hadn't been a practicing Catholic. However, the "ceremonies" of the craftsmen creating a masonry border around her grave, and of the stonecutter carving her headstone, were "last rites" more to her liking than the priest's prayers anyway, because she had never been fond of religion.

View full annotation

The Doctor Stories

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Apr-09-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

In this collection Richard Selzer brings together 25 stories from his previous books, along with two new stories, Avalanche (see this database) and "Angel, Tuning a Lute." The unifying theme is the world of medicine and healing, which Selzer explores with a keen eye and compassionate heart. These stories are firmly grounded in the foibles, suffering, and exultation of the human body.

In the Introduction Selzer sketches the path by which he became a surgeon-writer and he indicates the origin of some of the stories. Particularly interesting are the stories that do homage to literary and historical figures; for example, "Poe's Light-house," which grew out of a fragment Edgar Allan Poe wrote in his last delirium, and "The Black Swan," a re-writing of a Thomas Mann novella (Mann's The Black Swan is annotated in this database).

Likewise, the story of how "Avalanche" was written is an interesting tale in itself. Selzer's description of pruning the story from his journal reminds me of Michelangelo's comment that the sculpture already exists in the block of marble. The sculptor merely removes the unnecessary stone. The Doctor Stories contains many of Selzer's tales that have become part of the Literature and Medicine canon; these include, for example, "Tube Feeding," "Sarcophagus," Imelda, Mercy, Brute, and Four Appointments with the Discus Thrower. (See this database for annotations of the latter four.)

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a beautiful, unattached psychiatrist whose business-like facade fails to conceal a natural empathy that draws men. For her, however, love is a mere epi-phenomenon, easy to explain and resist, until she meets Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck). The famous expert on the guilt complex has arrived to replace the retiring chief (Leo Carroll). Constance is smitten, and so, it seems, is he.

But soon, she realizes that Edwardes is "not well," that he is terrified of dark lines on white: fork marks on a tablecloth; threads in her robe. Worse, she discovers that Edwardes is not, in fact, Edwardes, but an amnesic physician of initials "J. B." who is convinced that he has murdered his analyst. Constance does the right thing by having him removed from work, but she refuses to believe he is a murderer. Wanting to protect her, he leaves. But she, intent on curing her lover, follows him on a journey to retrace his last movements. The task is to recover both a memory and a missing person.

They go skiing (dark lines on white) at a resort where the real Dr. Edwardes had sojourned with his patient-colleague. On a dangerous slope, J. B. suddenly remembers that Edwardes went over the cliff. The body is found, but it has a bullet in the back.

Now hiding from the police, the couple pose as newlyweds and flee to her old mentor in Rochester. Complete with accent and beard, Dr. Brulov (Michael Chekhov) is a delightful double of the recently deceased Sigmund Freud (1858-1939). It emerges that John Ballantine (Peck) never lost his childhood feelings of guilt over the accidental death of his little brother.

In a gruesome ten-second flashback, the tyke is abruptly impaled on a iron-spike fence. This ancient guilt was reactivated by his doctor’s demise and it was sublimated by the defense mechanism of an assumed identity to keep the dead man alive. An idle slip of the tongue reveals the murderer to be the jealous retiree. The killer threatens Constance and then makes a quick end by dispatching himself instead.

View full annotation

The Fifth Child

Lessing, Doris

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the "free love" context of the nineteen-sixties, Harriet and David Lovatt are throwbacks to a more conservative, traditional, and family-oriented decade. Their life dream is to have a big house in the country filled with children, and it seems that they will succeed. After bearing four young children, however, Harriet is feeling the strain of years of childbearing, sleeplessness, money trouble, and her parents' and in-laws' disapproval of her fecundity.

Her fifth pregnancy is not only unplanned, but also unusually painful and disruptive. Harriet's doctor prescribes sedatives but finds nothing abnormal in her situation. When Ben is born, Harriet jokes that he is like "a troll or a goblin," but no one responds well to this unusually hairy and physically vigorous baby, who in turn does not respond to anything but his own desires and fears.

As he grows older, family pets and other children seem to be in physical danger. Health care professionals do not confirm the couple's conviction that Ben is not normal, but neither do they obstruct the decision to send Ben to a private institution, a removal that leaves the family temporarily happy until Harriet visits Ben and recognizes the institution for what it is, a place where all manner of "different" children are sent to live heavily medicated, physically restrained, and foreshortened lives away from families who do not want them.

Harriet brings Ben home, where he grows up amid what remains of the Lovatts' domestic fantasy, and finds community in a gang of thuggish older boys whom Harriet suspects are involved in various criminal acts. As the story closes, Ben has left home and Harriet imagines him in another country, "searching the faces in the crowd for another of his own kind" (133).

View full annotation

Touching

Hellerstein, David

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A third year medical student rotates through a gynecology clinic at the university. The attending Dr. Snarr, is supposed to treat his patients' chronic pelvic pain, but only seems to inflict pain himself. The student/narrator wants to comfort the patients, but lacks the knowledge, skills, and authority. The student also feels uncomfortable with issues of sexuality and intimacy with these female patients.

View full annotation

Before I Say Goodbye

Picardie, Ruth

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Ruth Picardie was a journalist working in London. Shortly after her marriage in 1994 to Matt Seaton, also a journalist, she found a breast lump. After testing, she was told it was benign. Two years later, and a year after giving birth to twins, the lump enlarged and this time she was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable breast cancer. She rapidly developed bone, liver, and brain metastases and died in September 1997, aged 33.

This book consists of a selection of Picardie's e-mail correspondence during the last year of her life, the columns she wrote for the Observer newspaper (a series about dying she called "Before I say goodbye"), readers' letters responding to her column, and an introduction and epilogue by her husband. While not, then, strictly a memoir, this collection of texts constitutes an intimate view of a witty, angry young woman undergoing an intolerable illness.

The expected elements are there: diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation, hope, the loss of hope. What is unexpected is the way these are presented, and the vividness with which we share the prospect of saying good bye to her children, her gradual detachment from her husband, and, as the brain metastases spread, the loss of coherence and the appalling silencing of her powerful voice.

View full annotation

The Physician in Literature

Cousins, N., ed.

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

The Physician in Literature is an anthology edited and introduced by Norman Cousins that aims to illustrate the multiple ways in which doctors are portrayed in world literature. Literary selections are organized into 12 categories including Research and Serendipity, The Role of the Physician, Gods and Demons, Quacks and Clowns, Clinical Descriptions in Literature, Doctors and Students, The Practice, Women and Healing, Madness, Dying, The Patient, and An Enduring Tradition.

Some of the notable authors represented in this collection include Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, Albert Camus, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Anton P. Chekhov, Orwell, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann, Gustave Flaubert, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A healthy dose of William Carlos Williams makes for some of the most enjoyable reading ("The Use of Force" and excerpts from his Autobiography).

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This book contains 17 short stories, all set in an in-patient hospice, all exploring the reactions of patients and their caregivers--both family members and professionals--to the last stages of terminal illness. A woman struggles to find the strength to write last letters to her loved ones, nurses are surprised when a seemingly unconscious patient suddenly joins in their conversation; the hospice chaplain becomes a patient; and so on. In the title story, a dying woman's daughter finally manages to answer honestly when her mother asks when death will come: "Soon."

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Carol White (Julianne Moore), an upper-middle-class Los Angeles housewife, is stricken with a mysterious illness that her doctor cannot diagnose or explain. He believes her illness to be psychosomatic, but Carol, through contact with a support group, realizes she has "environmental illness," an immune disorder that causes her to physically overreact to common chemicals, fumes, and environmental pollutants. The film follows her journey to a clinic in New Mexico in search of relief from her increasingly debilitating symptoms.

View full annotation