Showing 41 - 50 of 228 annotations tagged with the keyword "Humor and Illness/Disability"

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Editor Helman is a physician and anthropologist as well as a published author of short stories, essays, and a medical anthropology textbook. For this anthology he has selected short stories, case studies, memoir and novel excerpts whose purpose is "to illustrate different aspects of [the] singular but universal relationship" between doctors and patients (1). In the introduction he discusses how these selections illustrate storytelling in medicine; the unique experience of individual illness; differences between fast-paced contemporary technological specialized medicine, and an older more leisurely medicine where the physician employed all his/her senses to diagnose illness, doctors made house calls, and patients recovered over time, or died.

The anthology is subdivided into three parts: "Doctors," represented by the work of Mikhail Bulgakov, Franz Kafka, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Rachel Naomi Remen; "Patients," represented by authors Renate Rubenstein, Ruth Picardie, Rachel Clark, Clive Sinclair, W. (William) Somerset Maugham, and O. Henry; and "Clinical Encounters," with work by Oliver Sacks, Cecil Helman, William Carlos Williams, A. J. (Archibald Joseph) Cronin, Anton P.Chekhov, and Moacyr Scliar. (In total there are 16 selections.) Each piece is preceded by a paragraph of biographical information about its author and an introduction to the text.

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On Being a Cripple

Mairs, Nancy

Last Updated: Jan-14-2010
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

In this superbly written essay, Nancy Mairs, a feminist writer who has multiple sclerosis, defines the terms in which she will interact with the world. She will name herself--a cripple--and not be named by others. She will choose a word that represents her reality, and if it makes people "wince," "[p]erhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me as a tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses have not been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence squarely. As a cripple, I swagger" (9). She muses on the euphemisms that are used by others, concluding that they describe no one because "[s]ociety is no readier to accept crippledness than to accept death, war, sex, sweat, or wrinkles."

Mairs describes the uncertainty of a (correct) diagnosis early on, the kind of person she was before, and how that has changed and not changed since her illness. She discusses her need for assistance, but balances that by saying that there are many people around her willing to help; she describes her dependence on her family and how lucky she was to have a husband and children before she was taken ill. Nevertheless, there "always is the terror that people are kind to me only because I'm a cripple" (15).

Mairs has many astute comments to make about how disability does not fit well in our youth-oriented, physical-fitness-obsessed culture, and on how social expectations influence whether she adapts or fails to adapt. She also understands what is at stake for the medical professionals who care for her: "I may be frustrated, maddened, depressed by the incurability of my disease, but I am not diminished by it, and they are" (20).

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Angels in America

Kushner, Tony

Last Updated: Jan-12-2010
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Angels in America is really two full-length plays. Part I: Millennium Approaches won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This play explores "the state of the nation"--the sexual, racial, religious, political and social issues confronting the country during the Reagan years, as the AIDS epidemic spreads.

Two of the main characters have AIDS. One, Prior, is a sane, likeable man who wonders if he is crazy as he is visited by ghosts of his ancestors, and selected by angels to be a prophet (but the audience sees the ghosts and angels too). The other main character, Roy Cohn, based on the real political figure, is a hateful powerbroker who refuses the diagnosis of AIDS because only powerless people get that sickness.

A rabbi opens the play, saying that in the American "melting pot" nothing melts; three Mormons try to reconcile their faith with the facts of their lives. Belize, an African-American gay nurse, is the most compassionate and decent person in the play, along with Hannah, the Mormon mother who comes to New York to try to untangle the mess of her son and daughter-in-law’s marriage. In contrast to their commitment, Prior’s lover, Louis, abandons him in cowardly fear of illness. The play portrays a wide range of reactions to illness, both by the patients and by those around them. Included is the realization that much of the nation’s reaction is political and prejudiced.

The second play, Part II: Perestroika (winner of a Tony Award), continues the story, with the angel explaining to Prior that God has abandoned his creation, and that Prior has been chosen to somehow stop progress and return the world to the "good old days." Prior tells the angel he is not a prophet; he’s a lonely, sick man. "I’m tired to death of being tortured by some mixed-up, irresponsible angel. . . Leave me alone."

Ironically, Belize is Roy Cohn’s nurse, as Cohn--even as he is dying in his hospital bed--tries to manipulate the system to get medication and special treatment, and to trick the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg into singing him a lullaby. Meanwhile, the Mormon mother, Hannah, manages to help save the sanity and integrity of her daughter-in-law, Harper; and she also is a good caregiver for Prior.

At the end of the play, we see Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah sitting on the rim of the fountain in Central Park with the statue of the Bethesda angel. They say that when the Millennium came, everyone who was "suffering, in the body or the spirit, [and] walked through the waters of the fountain of Bethesda, would be healed, washed clean of pain."

These four characters represent Jews and Christians and agnostics; homosexuals and heterosexuals; blacks and whites; men and women; caregivers and patients; two generations--the American mix, in this case, caring about each other. Somehow, although the real angels in this play seem inept and reactionary, these folks together at the Bethesda angel fountain seem competent contributors to the future.

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Codeine Diary: A Memoir

Andrews, Tom

Last Updated: Jan-09-2010
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Contrary to what the title might suggest, this is not a memoir of drug addiction. Writer and poet Tom Andrews has hemophilia, and codeine is the analgesic he requires during excruciatingly painful internal bleeding episodes. In this diary, begun while recovering from a leg injury, Andrews reflects on his particular experience of life and hemophilia. He makes clear that " . . . hemophilia is only one of the stories my life tells me . . . " (p. 29)

The memoir interweaves the author's physical, emotional, and existential journey through the convalescent period with flashbacks of childhood and his relationship with his ailing brother, now dead, to whose memory the book is dedicated. Brother John's fatal illness with kidney disease shaped--and continues to shape--Tom's life as much as did the hemophilia.

On the one hand their parents' concern for John took Tom out of the spotlight and allowed him to pursue his own interests. These extended to motorcycle racing, playing in a punk band, and setting a record for continuous hand clapping--at age 11--that was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. On the other hand, Tom's guilt over surviving John's early death may account for an almost reckless disregard of his own precarious physical condition. A constant subtext is the deep grief and abiding love of the living brother for the dead one.

But this is not a mournful book. It is an engaging memoir that provides unusual access and insight into the world of hemophilia, especially with regard to the painful "bleeds." It is the sense of exile and separation from others that is most disturbing for Andrews when in the throes of unrelieved pain. He takes us through the mental concentration required to endure this pain and the liberating relief to mind and spirit provided by codeine. Memory, perception, and writing provide the additional resources he needs to re-connect with the world.

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Epsilon Country

Cohen, Marion

Last Updated: Jan-09-2010
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In 1977 Marion Cohen's physicist husband, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He was 36 years old. Cohen, a mathematician and poet and mother of four, became his chief caregiver. As her husband's illness progressed, the caregiving role became increasingly absorbing, demanding, all-encompassing. Eventually daytime attendants were hired but sometimes they didn't show up. This collection of 77 poems is a kind of journal, primarily from late 1989 through January, 1991, that chronicles Marion's ambivalent caregiving, despair, resignation, "temper tantrums," love, and compassion.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This anthology culls 1,500 excerpts from approximately 600 works of literature primarily written in the past two centuries and representing all major genres--the novel, drama, poetry, and essay. These brief selections highlight how literature portrays the medical profession and also provide ample evidence of many recurrent themes about the doctor-patient relationship and the personal lives of physicians present in the pages of fiction.

The book is organized into eleven chapters devoted to the following subjects: the doctor's fee, time, bedside manner, the medical history and physical examination, communication and truth, treatment, detachment, resentment of the medical profession, hospital rounds, social status, and the doctor in court. Many well-known authors including Anton P. Chekhov, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann, W. (William) Somerset Maugham, Leo Tolstoy, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams are featured in this anthology but less notable writers are also introduced. A twenty-three-page bibliography of primary and secondary sources is a useful element of the book.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Visual Arts

Genre: Multimedia

Summary:

Aerobics of the Spirit is a collaborative permanent online exhibition of art by Mary Anne Bartley and poetry by Emanuel E. Garcia, M.D., featuring twenty-nine images and five poems that reflect on sickness. The actual art represented on line consists of acrylic polymer emulsion color canvases and originated at Villanova University, where Bartley is Artist-in-Residence.

The first display (the homepage) includes an Artist's Statement outlining the two artists' tenets that art has a great medical value in the healing process, and that the utilization of one's inner creativity is a powerful treatment in stress reduction. Bartley suffered as a young girl from acute rheumatic heart disease and later became a pioneer in the field of Art in Medicine. Dr. Garcia is a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of creative and performing artists.

The first display (image 1) also includes artwork, "Lamentations"-- three sliced off faces in profile on a background of mottled blue-green-yellow-brown. Underneath the faces are outstretched arms with reaching fingers, seeking small heart shaped objects that float nearby.

The third and fourth displays (images 2 through 8, plus un-numbered kite drawings), "A Flotilla of Healing Kites," is meant to evoke feelings including freedom of spirit and place, deliverance from ailment, and childhood wonder. Bartley and Garcia include a song by psychotherapist Bruce Lackie, PhD, recognizing "the importance of the arts in healing the spirit." Reminiscent of Jackson Pollack's work, Bartley's kites possess a vibrant energy that, in contrast to what many would find macabre subject matter--sickness and death--elicits hope and joy from the viewer. Other works exhibited later in the online exhibition are non-representational images, often portraits, which make use of color and unconventional painting techniques to convey similar emotions.

The fifth and sixth displays (images 9 through 12), "Collaboration of Poet and Artist," is a joint project begun at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Section on Medicine and the Arts. Here, Garcia and Bartley dialogue with one another's work in a "Responsorial Psalm." This section includes the text of two poems by Garcia and a reading by him of one of them.

The seventh and eighth displays (images 13 through 24), "Portraits of Our Self and Others: Intimate Conversations We Have with Our Self," focuses on the power of facial depiction in bringing "new meaning to the past," and to "help rescue [an artist] from the depth of mourning." Included are the text and a reading by Garcia of his poem, "Portraiture."

The ninth display, "Vers la Flamme," pairs a three-part poem ("The Consultation," "The Stay," "The Cure") with three paintings-- the kite shaped drawing, "Behind the Dancer's Mask," and images 25 and 26.

The tenth display (image 27), "Homage to Wilma Bulkin Siegel, MD", pays pictorial tribute to Dr. Siegel, a "pioneer in the hospice movement"

The eleventh and twelfth displays (image 28), "Homage to Healers: John Y. Templeton, III, MD," features a painting of surgeons' hands covering an abstract human heart and a corresponding poem and reading. Mary Anne Bartley explains in text following the image Dr. Templeton's role in saving her life during her teenage years, and again "salute[s] this gentle healer:" "I carry the fingerprints of this great man in my own heart."

Dr. Garcia's poem, "Homage," expounds on Bartley's pictorial sentiment with words: "Darkened to nil . . . / to surrender to a surgeon's tryst, / Hands on my heart to cut and to caress / Deeper than any lover any lover ever would." The display also includes photographs of Bartley as a young patient in 1967 at the time of her surgery, of Dr. Templeton, and of all three--Garcia, Bartley, and Templeton--at an exhibition.

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Mind, Body, Spirit

Worsham, Erin Brady

Last Updated: Dec-16-2009
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Visual Arts

Genre: Digital art

Summary:

Mind, Body, Spirit consists of three pictures. The artwork representative of "Mind" shows a woman in a wheelchair wearing a red beret, bright yellow smock, and holding a paintbrush in one hand and a palette in the other. The frame around the seated woman is composed of ovals of one color enclosed in squares of the opposite hue. The woman looks directly at the viewer and sits squarely in the center of her chair and the image. Although enclosed by a thick border, the woman’s feet, and the brushes in her right hand and mouth break out past her boundary.

The depiction of "Body" maintains the same layout template. Here, however, the woman seated in a wheelchair is wearing yellow flippers, a yellow bathing cap on top of which sit goggles, and a red swim outfit. On her lap is a floatation device - a swimming tube - that the woman covers with her folded arms. Four colors comprise the background: blue, green, aquamarine, and purple; these are grouped into shapes evocative of waves in water. As in "Body," the seated figure, although enclosed by thick borders, trespasses beyond; in this picture, her flipper-encased feet challenge the confines of her space.

"Spirit" makes use again of the same template. Here, the background is given perspective and is representational of grass and sky. The blue-green colors are restrained and soothing. The woman meditates in a wheelchair, and is visually balanced with symmetrical positioning of hands, arms, and feet. Her hair is fully visible and uncapped by a headpiece. In contrast to the other two images, her eyes are closed. She is flanked by a blue and green border, beyond which her hands and feet extend.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

To Kiss the Spirits: Now, This Is What It Is Really Like is in oil on canvas with a painted frame. The work's center is filled with a column of light that stretches like a holy tornado from the top of the frame to the bottom. Within the luminescence exists a spiral staircase up which silhouetted ladies ascend. As the women move from the bottom of the stairs to the top, their colors change from purple to pink to white. The ladies who have reached the top of the stairs gain wings and fly into the starry night.

The bottom of the painting is lined with small, plain houses, some of which are lit interiorly. The sky is filled with stars, which appear in greater numbers the farther their distance from the ground.

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Summary:

An overhead ceiling lamp partially illuminates a dreary room, which is colored in glum blues and black. In the center of the print and within the cone of light that extends downwards from the ceiling lamp are two items. One is a square picture on the wall of a gown with lace that appears to be made of barbed wire. The other is a rectangular object on the floor that may either be a bed or a coffin. On top of the rectangular object lies an indistinguishable shape, perhaps clothing. Strewn on the floor of the room is some sort of debris.

The other objects in the room are a dresser with an open drawer and an open box that rests on top of the dresser. The room is sealed; the two windows are boarded up and the door is locked shut with a plank of wood. Writing along the bottom of the picture gives the piece its title: "Hoping to Bring Her Life Together...It’s Not Hard, It Just Takes Time."

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