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According to the editor’s introduction, this collection is based on the AMSA (American Medical Student Association) assertion that the physician must be a humanist, a communicator and an advocate as well as a scientist. To support these and related commitments, it offers essays that demonstrate how and under what circumstances the introduction of creative arts into the lives of professional care providers and their patients and families may be achieved. Included in some essays are general themes, while in others there are very detailed descriptions of methodology. Others utilize more standard research designs and outcomes.
What creative arts are included in the discussions? Visual arts, drama, music, and story-telling stand out in terms of potential and, in some cases, already demonstrated applicability to a medical practice. Some of the essays propose art forms that can be translated into a useful frame for health practitioners, artists and/or patients and their families.
Some essays include assessment of research projects or various designs of methodologies for using creative art in the medial professional education environment. Others rely on personal experiences using the arts in the learning and teaching of skills such as communication with peers, patients, family and friends.
The volume is divided into four sections. The first cluster of essays considers using the arts to illustrate empathy in encounters among providers and recipients of health care services. This is demonstrated in a variety of settings as disparate as end-of-life situations and dental training programs.
The second section includes examples of drama, music and drawing as part of caring for caregivers. Through group settings and peer support, art serves as a stress reducer for those whose work involves the highly emotional situations health professionals often encounter.
Section three explains and demonstrates the narrative reflective process, in which experiences and stories are shared among those persons involved as patients, family members and caregivers. The special situation of interviews in pediatrics is given attention in one portion of this section.
The final section addresses the question of using art to explore troublesome issues that demand change or special attention. Included are ethical dilemmas and the need for health professions to build bridges to the community at large.
A Little Something is a story of a medical catastrophe for a family: at a baseball game, 10-year-old Justin is struck in the face by a foul ball. He seems OK initially, but he has a loose tooth. His father takes him to a dentist, where, left unattended, he has a drug reaction and loses consciousness. Paramedics take him to a hospital, but he does not wake up. He becomes the still center of the book; three circles form around him. The closest circle includes the attending neurologist Dr. Goldstein and, of course, his parents. His mother Kath is a pediatric physician; she follows closely the medicine involved and knows well the hospital where Justin is being treated. His father Sam is an introverted financial man; he measures everything in numbers. Their marriage is stressed even before the accident. Kath’s nurse at her clinic, Jonesie, is a steady support. Granny, a Licensed Vocational Nurse, comes to watch over Justin. In a moving scene, she bathes the unconscious boy.
A second circle includes other family and friends, the clientele of Kath’s pediatric clinic, the children, and their parents. These are largely Latino, underserved in Fort Worth, Texas, of 2001. (Kath has chosen a medical specialty that earns less money than other fields—in contrast to her money-grubbing mother, who is satirically portrayed.) Next door to the clinic is a firehouse, where Justin has visited and made friends. The blue-collar firemen are public servants who help make a community work.
A third circle is less defined but contextual for the novel: country folks, like Granny, who are not intellectual but practical. They believe in keeping going no matter what, a folk wisdom of realistic, durable hope.
For three-quarters of the novel there’s suspense about Justin’s recovery. At one brief moment, Sam is sure of a turnaround when he sees (or thinks he sees) a smile on Justin’s face. For nine days Sam and Kath experience hope, anger, exhaustion, expressed rage, confusion, and continuous uncertainty.
Finally there is “the meeting,” a gathering of the doctor, the family, Kath’s faithful clinic nurse Jonesie, and Father Red, a Catholic priest from Justin’s school. Dr. Goldstein says there is no hope for recovery and gives the medical details of Justin’s brain death, which has both anatomical and legal certainty.
Kath and Sam decide to disconnect Justin from life support and allow organ donation. When Justin must be transferred from the children’s hospital to the neighboring one, Sam carries him in his arms. A surprise ritual is an honor guard of firemen who line the path of the procession.
We read the specifics of disconnecting the vent tube, watching the heart race on the monitor, then the flat line of the still heart. Father Red reads from the Book of Common Prayer. An hour later, a helicopter takes off from the hospital with Justin’s donated heart.
An Epilogue six months later describes a Thanksgiving dinner at the firehouse. Sam and Kath are closer now, and he plans for them a trip to Hawaii. There’s has been, however, no easy “closure,” and the couple combines memories with mourning.
The conventional, young, corporate executive, Ross Gardiner, is sentenced by a judge to pay weekly visits to the recently widowed and childless Mr. Green. Ross had knocked the elderly gentleman down when he stepped out into the road without looking. No real damage was done, but the judge decided that Ross had been driving too fast.
Neither man wants to be anywhere near the other. Mr Green sends Ross packing, and the younger man appeals to the judge for a different punishment, without success. He therefore returns bringing the peace offering of soup from a kosher deli that the passive-aggressive senior grudgingly devours. “Would I waste good food?” Their common Jewish identity makes everything better for Mr Green, although Ross does not care. For Mr Green the Jews are a people who suffered intolerance and murder and must stick together now.
They begin to tell stories of their lives. Mr Green grievously misses his wife who did all the cooking and cleaning; “we never argued once in sixty years.”
Things slip back again when Mr Green learns that Ross is gay. Negotiating that shock is facilitated by the older man’s bafflement over how Ross’s father has abandoned and derided him; they slowly grow closer. Mr Green wants Ross to find a nice girl and be happy as he was. Ross patiently explains how that cannot work for him.
Then another crisis erupts when Ross learns that the Green’s had a daughter who married a Gentile for which crime she was shunned by her parents as if she had died. It is compounded by the shocking discovery that Green’s wife had been writing to her daughter for thirty years without telling her husband.
Five Days at Memorial is the book length expansion of the New York Times Sunday Magazine article that the author, a Pulitzer Prize-winning physician-journalist, published in 2009. The book, the result of years of research and literally hundreds of interviews, chronicles the five days (August 28 to September 1, 2005) during which the medical staff remaining at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans tried to care for the patients -- over a hundred of them stranded, like the staff, in a hospital without water or electricity --following the flooding wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
After an 8 page prologue, the book is divided into two sections, "Deadly Choices" (228pp, the narrative of those five days) and "Reckoning" (256pp, the legal battles over the injections of midazolam (a sedative) and morphine by some of those staff and prosecuted as homicide -- what others called "euthanasia.") "Deadly Choices" relates almost hourly the five days inside Memorial from the viewpoint of patients, patients' relatives, physicians, nurses, administrators of Memorial, Tenet (the holding company owning and running Memorial) and LifeCare -- the long-term care area within Memorial devoted to the care of terminally ill and debilitated patients -- owned by a separate company. Ethical and legal questions of triage, DNR, record-keeping, accountability, communication (primarily the failure thereof) and leadership are on almost every page. At the heart of this book, however, is the mystery of the unexplained deaths of so many patients during those five days. (On September 11, 2005, a disaster mortuary team recovered 45 bodies from many different places in Memorial, page 234). The crux of the mystery of these deaths is the manner in which nine in particular died in the beleaguered hospital on the fifth and last day when, paradoxically, relief had become real and effective and inclusive, seemingly obviating such injections.
The final pages of "Reckoning" deal with the fallout - historical, ethical, political and medical -- and current events relevant to these five days and the almost two years following. (The final verdict of not guilty -- the actual wording was "Not a true bill" since it was a grand jury declining to indict the one physician, Anna Pou, and the two nurses, Cheri Landry and Lori Budo -- was rendered on July 24, 2007). There are a map of Memorial Hospital and a cast of characters at the front of the book and extensive notes, bibliography and index at the end.
Summary:Marie Commeford, daughter of Irish Catholic immigrants who grows up in Brooklyn, narrates her life story in episodes rich with reflection on the losses, failed fantasies, illnesses, and disappointments of a life at the edge of poverty, which is also rich with love and poetry and humor and the stuff of which wisdom is made. The story unfolds as memory unfolds, in flashbacks and reconstructions shaped by a present vantage point from which it all assumes a certain mantle of grace. From the opening story in which a neighbor girl slips on the steps to a basement apartment and is killed, to repeated glimpses of a blind veteran who umpires the neighborhood boys' street games, to the bereaved families Marie meets when she works for the local undertaker, to her gradual discovery of her brother's closeted homosexuality, and to her aging mother's death, the story keeps reminding us of how much of life is coming to terms with the "ills that flesh is heir to," and also how resilience grows in the midst of loss. Because much of the story represents the vantage point of a child only partially protected from hard things, it invites us to reflect on how children absorb large and hard truths and learn to cope with them.
Summary:Damon Weber's proud father, Doron, has written a searing memoir that enfolds a story of parental love and loss into a medical exposé. By the time Damon turned four, he had two open-heart surgeries to correct a congenital malformation that affected circulation to his lungs. His parents were led to believe that after the surgeries, their effervescent, sociable, academically and artistically talented son was set for life. However, as Damon turned 12, they became concerned about what his father calls "his unsprung height," his shortness of breath, and a strange protrusion in his abdomen (40). Returning to his attending physician, they were surprised that she withheld information from them about a condition known as PLE (protein-losing entropy), which can manifest months or years after the kind of surgery (Fontan) their son underwent. PLE enlarges the liver and allows proteins to leak from the intestines. Without adequate protein, Damon's body could not grow. His father worried that they might have passed the established window of opportunity to treat the complication.
Summary:The author of this long, compassionate and often startling treatise on identity interviewed over three hundred families to elicit stories about raising exceptional children, stories that also come from these exceptional children ('exceptional' is the term chosen to describe the children in the author's material about the book).
Summary:First published in France as a six-volume series from 1996-2003, this narrative is often referred to as an autobiographical graphic novel, but it is more accurately described as a graphic memoir. The author, born Pierre-François Beauchard, tells and draws the story of his family's life with the author's older brother, Jean-Christophe, whom we meet on the first page, in the year 1994: "It takes a moment for me to recognize the guy who just walked in. It's my brother . . . The back of his head is bald, from all the times he's fallen. He's enormously bloated from medication and lack of exercise." Flashback to 1964 when the author is five years old and his seven-year-old brother begins to have frequent grand mal epilepsy seizures. There follows the parents' mostly fruitless search for treatment to control the seizures, including: possible brain surgery which Jean-Christophe refuses in favor of an attempt at zen macrobiotics (this seems to work for six-months), consultation with a psychic, Swedenborgian spiritualism, magnetism, alchemy, exorcism by a priest, psychiatry (a different form of exorcism!).
Eloy’s grandmother—his abuela—is dying of cancer. She has been his faithful companion, teacher and refuge in a home where his parents often fight and his older brother seems to have lost interest in him. He believes the only thing that will save her now is for him to make the annual pilgrimage on foot to the chapel at Chimayo, 17 miles from their New Mexico home, but his parents, both of who work full time, can’t go with him and won’t hear of his going alone. Desperate for a miracle, and believing she can be saved by the blessed soil distributed at the chapel where many seem to have experienced miracles of healing, he sets out in secret early in the morning. On the way a friendly dog begins to follow him and, despite Eloy’s efforts to get rid of him, travels the entire 17 miles with him, sharing the water Eloy reluctantly offers him from the canteen that once belonged to his grandfather. Much of the story follows Eloy’s thoughts as he travels, and the small difficulties and surprises along the way. As he finally sees the chapel in the distance, he hears his brother driving by slowly in his low-rider with tinted windows. Angry at the brother who has given him no support so far and seems to be mocking him, Eloy flips him the finger. Later, as he stands in line for the sacred soil, his brother enters the chapel with their abuela on his arm. She explains to Eloy that she is indeed going to die, and that God has other ways of answering prayers. She sees that Eloy has been sent a companion, and encourages him to bring the dog, whom he has now named, home with him. His parents, who have steadily refused to let him have a dog, accept him, and Eloy comes to new terms with his grandmother’s approaching death.
Matt leaves a swim meet, happy with his performance, to drive home on a snowy road with his mother and sister. On the way their car is hit by a drunk driver who swerves out of his lane. His mother is killed instantly, his sister badly injured. When he has received treatment in the hospital for an injured shoulder, his best friend’s family comes to pick him up. He isn’t allowed to see his sister for days, and when he finally does, she looks lifeless and unfamiliar, tubed up in the ICU. At home with his friend Jamie, he remembers a time when he and his sister rescued a robin, only to see it die. The story traces the days and weeks following Matt’s loss—his mother’s funeral, his friend’s family’s decision to adopt him, and eventually his sister’s death. Despite his struggle with grief, anger, and bewilderment, Matt also has times of hope and pleasure in his new relationship to a family he already loved. Readjusting to school is one of the many challenges he faces. When he does return to school, he finds himself and his perspective changed, and realizes loss has grown him up in unexpected ways.