Showing 411 - 420 of 515 annotations tagged with the keyword "Disability"

Inside the Halo and Beyond

Kumin, Maxine

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In July 1998 the poet Maxine Kumin was thrown from her carriage when her horse bolted during a competition. The type of cervical (C1-C2) fracture that she sustained is fatal before reaching the hospital in 95% of cases, and if survived, usually results in quadriplegia. This book is a memoir written in the form of a journal that begins on the day of the accident. In fact, it was nearly a month after the accident that the poet's daughter brought writing materials to the rehab hospital, and Maxine began to dictate the journal, and the two of them filled in the temporal gaps.

The journal covers her experience in the acute care hospital, the rehab facility, and the following months of convalescence at home. It ends on April 23, 1999, when Maxine climbs a hill (unassisted) near her Vermont home, looks out over the early spring vista, and concludes, "I am letting myself believe I will heal."

The journal describes the poet's physical, emotional, and spiritual experiences as she struggles, first to survive, and then to live with the "halo vest" that for months she had to wear to stabilize her fractured neck bones, and finally to regain her function and equilibrium. Much of the story is about her family--husband, son, and daughters--who mobilize from various points around the world to support her. Comments about her doctors and the medical care she received constitute only a small, at times almost incidental, part of this narrative.

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The Tenth Circle

Zimmer, Paul

Last Updated: Aug-22-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Zimmer's poem begins with policy guidelines for landlords whose elderly tenants may be calling the switchboard more than three times per month for health emergencies. According to the guidelines, such patterns suggest that the resident, no longer capable of independent living, can be moved to a health care center.

In response to the policy passage, an advisory poem is constructed by the narrator for his own father who, we can assume, values his independence. In essence the son advises silence about medical events such as a fall: "tell no one." If an ambulance should arrive, don't get in.

The strong warnings reflect contemporary health care systems in which the prevailing practices correspond to Dante's Inferno, particularly the tenth circle. At that level, everyone faces one direction and people are "piled like cordwood inside the cranium of Satan." Cries for help are unheard and unanswered.

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Summary:

Mohammed (Mohsen Ramezani), an eight year old blind boy attending a special school in an Iranian city waits for his widowed father (Hossein Mahjub) to bring him home to his isolated, but idyllic Iranian village for summer recess. During several interminable hours of waiting outside the school, viewers come to recognize the boy’s sensitivity to his surroundings. Through sound and feel he is at one with nature. Remarkably, he is able to rescue a vulnerable baby bird and return it to the tree branch nest from where it has fallen.

Unfortunately, Mohammed’s father fails to exhibit this kind of care with his son. The tardy reunion is painful: rather than embracing the boy, the father requests that school officials keep the boy during the recess. When the request is refused by embarrassed faculty members who are sympathetic to the child’s family needs, father and son begin the long walk, then bus ride into the distant countryside.

In contrast, Mohammed receives a warm and loving welcome from his Granny (Salime Feizi), his sisters, and the neighboring children. Immediately, the children run with him into the meadows to explore and celebrate. Clearly, this is Mohammed’s nest.

Even though Mohammed’s abilities at the local school are superior to those of his classmates and even though he is able to function in normal play with his peers, the father focuses only on the boy’s removal from the family and the village so that he can find a new wife to care for him and his other children. The unprepared boy is taken abruptly by his father to a blind carpenter many miles away where he will serve as an apprentice. Although the carpenter is kind, Mohammed is devastated by the cruel separation from Granny and the children.

Unburdened, the father goes forth with plans for another marriage, but before the arranged ceremony occurs both the heartbroken Granny and Mohammed die. The bride-to-be and her family regard these losses as unhealthy portends. Marriage plans are canceled. Only then, does the father recognize his own blindness.

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Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker describes his grandmother, just prior to her death. She is "impossible to get on with," unless you are the nineteen year old grandson, who has not just a soft spot for her, but who sees the benefits of a free place to stay and eat. On Thanksgiving Day just after dinner, "death touched the old lady," requiring that she move from the beach house where they had been staying to the family "home."

Several verses describe her decline: the ravings, the daze, the smell, the cries. She refused to go to the hospital, "I won't go." In alarm he calls an ambulance for the actively resistant woman. "Is this what you call / making me comfortable?" she cries to the lifting attendants. Then, as if to defy the "smart . . . young people," she lets them know she's still in charge by promptly dying. Her final words dismiss the elm trees seen from the ambulance window, and life as well: "Well, I'm / tired of them."

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Blindness

Saramago, José

Last Updated: Jun-27-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A sudden epidemic of blindness spreads throughout an unidentified country. When those who have lost their sight are examined, however, no evidence of pathology or damage can be found. The afflicted all describe "seeing" not darkness but rather a dense, impenetrable whiteness.

Because the government believes the disease is contagious, those people initially affected are quickly quarantined in a former mental hospital that is guarded by soldiers. There, the blind are treated like lepers and live like animals. Enigmatically, the wife of a sightless ophthalmologist has been spared from going blind. She functions as both protector and caregiver of a small group of blind people. They escape their imprisonment only when their captors (and presumably everyone except the ophthalmologist's wife) lose their sight.

Life is reduced to a constant search for food. As the situation grows even more grisly, vision is not only abruptly restored but perhaps with a clarity greater than ever before. When crowds of people rejoice "I can see," the reader wonders whether their earlier loss of sight was genuine or maybe some form of psychic blindness or spiritual malaise.

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Miss Rosie

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Apr-17-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry — Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator observes an old, poor woman "who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia." now in a state of advanced deterioration. The poem expresses the poignancy of watching a decayed life from the perspective of memory; it ends with an affirmation of human dignity.

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Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Apr-13-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The first chapter of this memoir consists of two words: "I exaggerate." The narrator then tells us the story of her childhood and early adult experiences as an epileptic. After having her first seizure, at the age of ten, she spends a month at a special Catholic school in Topeka, Kansas, where the nuns teach epileptic children to fall without hurting themselves. This falling may or may not be literal; it is certainly symbolically apt.

During adolescence, Lauren begins lying, stealing, and faking seizures to get attention. She reveals that she has developed Munchausen's Syndrome, whose sufferers are "makers of myths that are still somehow true, the illness a conduit to convey real pain" (88). A neurologist, Dr. Neu, performs surgery severing Lauren's corpus callosum, effectively dividing her brain in half and markedly alleviating the seizure disorder.

Later she attends a writer's workshop where she begins an affair with a married man, a writer much older than she. After it ends badly, she starts going to Alcoholics Anonymous (although she does not drink) and tells her story with such authenticity that when she later confesses that she is NOT an alcoholic, no-one believes her, dismissing her true story as denial. The memoir ends both with her recognition of the value of narrating and with a silent fall to the snowy ground, as the nuns taught her to do, in the knowledge that the sense of falling (rather than the material certainty of landing) is all that is finally, reliably, real.

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Ice Follies

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Mar-28-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A wonderfully descriptive three-stanza poem about the icy perils of a winter walk, especially for "the claudicators, the lace- / boned, the seven-months-pregnant, and the lame." The poet juxtaposes the ludicrous (teetering, wobbling, toppling), with the serious, the "spry" with the infirm. One comfort in this situation is that it threatens everyone who ventures outdoors and there is a camaraderie and mutual empathy among those who are struggling to remain upright. [18 lines]

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Summary:

This is the second anthology from Donley and Buckley derived after many years of teaching "What's Normal?"--a literature and medicine course at Hiram College where they explore the cultural and contextual influences upon the concept of normality. With the first anthology, The Tyranny of the Normal, the editors focused on physical abnormalities (see this database for annotation). In this second anthology, the focus is exclusively on mental and behavioral deviations from societal norms. With this edition, Donley and Buckley present their case that, as with physical abnormalities, there is a similar tyranny of the normal that "dominates those who do not fit within the culture's norms for mental ability, mental health and acceptable behavior (xi)".

The anthology is divided into two parts. Part I is a collection of essays that introduce various clinical and bioethical perspectives on the subject of mental illness. These essays bring philosophic and analytic voices to the topic. Stephen Jay Gould's terrific essay on Carrie Buck and the "eugenic" movement in the United States in the early part of the 20th century illustrates one of the major themes that can be found throughout the anthology.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion in the 8-1 Supreme Court decision that sealed Buck's fate. Gould begins his essay reminding his readers of the often referenced Holmes quote, "three generations of imbeciles are enough." He then takes us on a fascinating historical adventure that uncovers a deeper and more complicated drama that led to this unfortunate period in American history, and the tragic incarceration and sterilization of Carrie Buck.

This essay, as with other stories, poems, and drama in the anthology, contemplates the relationship between societal values and mental illness, and illustrates how society through medicine can turn to the myth of "objective" diagnostic labels as a way to compartmentalize and control behavior and imaginations that are "abnormal." D. L. Rosenhan's essay from "On Being Sane in Insane Places" further illustrates the failure of the mental illness label. Irvin Yalom's story from Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy provides an example of what is possible when diagnostic labels are avoided, when health care professionals with power turn with humility, curiosity, and kindness toward others, substantiating that these qualities are far more powerful than statistical notions of "normal."

Part II is a collection of fiction, poetry and drama. Intended as a complement to part I, part II engages the reader in the lived experience of the narrators. It is divided into six sections. Section one considers children and adolescent experience of mental illness. Included are Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," an excerpt from Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (see annotation in this database), and an excerpt from Peter Shaffer's Equus (see annotation).

Section two includes stories that capture the world of mental disability and retardation. An excerpt from Of Mice and Men and Eudora Welty's short story Lilly Daw and the Three Ladies are included. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (annotated by Felice Aull; also annotated by Jack Coulehan) is in section three where women's experiences with mental disorders is the theme (these are annotated in this database).

Section four and five focus on men and mental illness. War experience is considered in the works of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. Section six concludes the anthology. Alzheimer's disease and dementia are examined in Robert Davis's My Journey into Alzheimer's Disease, and in the story, "A Wonderful Party" by Jean Wood.

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Parkinson's Disease

Kinnell, Galway

Last Updated: Feb-23-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

There are two characters in this poem. One is the man with Parkinson's disease, who is being fed: "He will not accept the next morsel / until he has completely chewed this one." The man stands, shuffles to the toilet, pees, and then has his diaper changed. The second character is his daughter, who does the feeding and "holds his hand with her other hand, / or rather lets it rest on top of his." The daughter helps her father to the bathroom and "holds the spout of the bottle / to his old penis." On the way back, as she walks backward in front of him, "she is leading her old father into the future."

Wait a second! A third character--the subject, "I"--suddenly appears on this intimate scene. Near the end of the poem the invisible "I" turns the reader's attention to himself: "I watch them closely: she could be teaching him / the last steps that one day she may teach me." [64 lines]

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