Showing 551 - 560 of 639 annotations tagged with the keyword "Disease and Health"

The Mourner's Bench

Dodd, Susan

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Leandra lives alone in the backwoods of North Carolina where she makes a small but sufficient living repairing antique dolls for a dealer who sells them to collectors. The broken and ragged dolls occupy an old "mourner's bench" in her one-room cabin. For ten years she has lived in relative contentment, though she carries the pain of a trip to Boston when her sister bore a defective child who died.

The sister committed suicide soon thereafter. During that visit, as Leandra's sister withdrew into late-pregnancy depression and hostility, Leandra and Wim took comfort in one another's presence and finally fell in love. But after the suicide, Leandra returns to North Carolina with no intention of ever seeing Wim again.

Now, ten years later, he shows up on her doorstep, wanting to spend the final months of his life with her; he has inoperable brain cancer. He knows what course it is likely to take. He wants only to see her, but she insists that if he is to reenter her life, she wants to see him through all of it, even the worst parts.

They weather and cherish the days with gentle humor, frankness, careful sharing of memory, and the deepest love either has ever experienced. Leandra's neighbor, a friend from childhood, helps Wim build an extension onto Leandra's little cabin, one of several ways he finds to "provide for her" as he wishes he could have earlier.

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Summary:

This work touches upon a wide range of issues, more or less closely related to the trauma surrounding, the management of, and the aftermath of sustaining a serious burn. Divided into three sections, the work first defines burns not only on a biological basis, but as distinguished psychologically and historically from other forms of physical trauma.

In Part II the authors explore ancient myths and then images from modern culture that they contend define social perceptions about the meaning of being a burn victim. The final section poses problems that remain in the technique of burn management in its most holistic sense. An extensive bibliography/filmography completes the book.

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God Said, Ha!

Sweeney, Julia; Sweeney, Julia

Last Updated: Oct-27-1999
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Julia Sweeney performs on film the dramatic monologue that she wrote and performed "live" on stage. The period of her life on which she focuses are the nine months of her brother's dying, when he and her parents moved into her home--an idyllic bungalow that she had set up for herself, following her recent divorce. Instead of having the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of being single again, she is thrust into the thicket of family relationships, the sadness of her brother's poor health, and the demands made by his treatment for lymphoma.

Her parents, she says, have always been for her a "source of comedy, or a reason to be in therapy." These are the resources Sweeney is able to tap as she comments with humor and insight on living like a child in her own home, as her mother takes over the household and bickers with her father, who is drinking too much. But even as she jokes about the clash in lifestyles between herself and her parents (after all, she hasn't lived with them for 16 years), she weaves into the narrative the nature of life with her brother, whom she accompanies for his daily radiation treatments and whom she ministers to as he undergoes chemotherapy.

While not minimizing the seriousness of her brother's illness, she (as well as he) can find the surreal humor in their medical encounters. Thus Julia Sweeney describes how, when scar tissue prevents further injection into his spinal fluid and the doctors recommend a brain "shunt" for that purpose, assuring them that other patients "love their shunts," brother Mike not only agrees to the procedure, but adopts the slogan, "I love my shunt" for every conceivable situation.

The surreal becomes the real when Julia learns that she too has cancer--a rare form of cervical cancer that will require a hysterectomy. Even as she describes her shock and horror at this new blow, Sweeney takes comfort in Mike's sense of humor: he accuses her of getting even with him for taking "the cancer spotlight." Her narration of picking up her own pathology slides and of making the decision not to have her ova ("eggs") harvested and fertilized are both funny and poignant.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

Editors Angela Belli, professor of English at St. John’s University in New York, and Jack Coulehan, physician-poet and director of the Institute for Medicine in Contemporary Society at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, have selected 100 poems by 32 contemporary physician-poets for this succinct yet meaty anthology. The book is subdivided into four sections, each of which is prefaced by an informative description and highlights of the poems to follow.

Section headings take their names from excerpts of the poems contained therein. There are poems that describe individuals--patients, family members ("from patient one to next"), poems that consider the interface between personal and professional life ("a different picture of me"), poems that "celebrate the learning process" ("in ways that help them see"), and poems in which the poet’s medical training is brought to bear on larger societal issues ("this was the music of our lives").

Several of the poems have been annotated in this database: Abse’s Pathology of Colours (9); Campo’s Towards Curing AIDS (13) and What the Body Told (94); Coulehan’s Anatomy Lesson (97), I’m Gonna Slap Those Doctors (21), The Dynamizer and the Oscilloclast: in memory of Albert Abrams, an American quack (129); Moolten’s Motorcycle Ward (105); Mukand’s Lullaby (33); Stone’s Talking to the Family (79) and Gaudeamus Igitur (109).

Other wonderful poems by these authors are also included in the anthology, e.g. Her Final Show by Rafael Campo, in which the physician tends to a dying drag queen, finally "pronouncing her to no applause" (11); "Lovesickness: a Medieval Text" by Jack Coulehan, wherein the ultimate prescription for this malady is to "prescribe sexual relations, / following which a cure will usually occur" (131); "Madame Butterfly" by David N. Moolten, in which the passengers in a trolley car are jolted out of their cocoons by a deranged screaming woman (142).

Space prohibits descriptions of all 100 poems, but each should be read and savored. Some others are particularly memorable. "Carmelita" by D. A. Feinfeld tells of the physician’s encounter with a feisty tattooed prisoner, who ends up with "a six-inch steel shank" through his chest as the physician labors futiley to save him (23). In "Candor" physician-poet John Graham-Pole struggles with having to tell an eight-year old that he will die from cancer (27). Audrey Shafer writes of a Monday Morning when she makes the transition from the "just-awakened warmth" of her naked little son to tend to the patient whom she will anesthetize "naked under hospital issue / ready to sleep" (72).

In "The Log of Pi" Marc J. Straus muses about being asked "the question / I never knew" that he "pretend[s] not to hear" whose "answer floats on angel’s lips / and is whispered in our ear just once" (113). Richard Donze wants to know why "Vermont Has a Suicide Rate" (132). Vernon Rowe remembers the "hulk of a man" who shriveled away from an abdominal wound and begged, " ’Let me go, Doc,’ / and I did" (44).

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Oedipus the King

Sophocles

Last Updated: Sep-23-1999
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Having fled Corinth because of a fearful prophecy that he would murder his father and wed his mother, the young Oedipus angrily attacks and kills a small band of travelers who refuse to make way for him at a crossroads, a "place where three roads meet." He ultimately journeys to Thebes, a kingdom without a leader and without any hope of freeing itself from the tyranny of the Sphinx. Relying on his "wit alone," Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx and ascends the throne, eventually marrying the widowed queen, Jocasta, and fathering two sons and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene.

The prosperous and just reign of Oedipus is halted by a devastating outbreak of plague--a pestilence whose only remedy, according to Apollo, is justice for the murder of the murdered Theban king, Laius. An intelligent man and responsible leader, Oedipus launches an investigation, only to discover that he is not the savior of the city but the cause of its destruction. When his true heritage and his terrible crimes of parricide and incest are revealed, Oedipus blinds himself and invites banishment, nobly accepting his fate as "the greatly miserable, the most accursed . . . above all men on earth."

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Amy (Mira Sorvino), a New York City architect, takes a needed break at a mountain spa where she falls in love with her blind masseur, Virgil (Val Kilmer). He has congenital cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. His older sister Jenny (Kelly McGillis) has looked after him for twenty years since their father left and their mother died. She is jealous of Amy’s place in Virgil’s life, and he is angered when Amy contacts a specialist hoping to help him see again.

At first, he resents the implication that his blindness is a problem. But he decides to leave with Amy for New York, where his cataracts are removed. When the bandages are removed he is terrified by the confusing sights that his brain cannot recognize (visual agnosia).

Virgil’s slow adjustment to vision is an exciting challenge, but it drives a wedge between him and Amy. When the retinal disease returns and he begins to go blind again, he leaves her and sets out on his own finding work at a school for blind children. The film ends with a promising moment as Amy and Virgil encounter each other in Central Park.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

This psychobiographical reading of Katherine Mansfield's stories links the fiction to particular traumas in Mansfield's life and speculates about the various motives at work in her use of personal pain as material for fiction. Each of seven chapters is focused upon a key event in Mansfield's life, including, for instance, the death of her younger sister, maternal rejection, venereal disease, and abortion.

Burgan draws widely upon psychological theory, including allusions to Freud, Breuer, Erikson, Horney and others. She also comments on Mansfield's own extensive writing about her own fiction including material from letters and journals that vex the question of how, whether, and to what extent to read the stories in light of the biographical backdrop.

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Evening

Minot, Susan

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the fictional present of Evening, Ann Lord is diagnosed with terminal cancer and spends most of her time in her own bed in her house in Cambridge, Mass, drifting in and out of a medicated sleep, cared for by her adult children and various private nurses. In her reveries Ann returns to a weekend some forty years earlier, and re-experiences meeting a young doctor named Harris Arden and finding and losing the only true passion of her life. As Evening moves episodically between present and past, only the reader can see both Ann's dying, nearly motionless body and the hidden, vital world of her memories.

Ironically, while Ann's remembered youth forms a suspenseful plot, full of romance and tragedy, her full adult life seems to have been signally lacking in any of the passion, focus, and vitality that characterized her young womanhood. The best times of her life were literally over when that weekend in the past came to an abrupt and tragic close; and now, as her own life ends, it is this past "best time" that she returns to. Ann's children, friends, and caregivers only see her as a relatively young woman, dying a tragically early and painful death; they never grasp the content or intensity of her inner life, or know the name of the man who meant most to her.

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Disease, Pain, & Sacrifice

Bakan, David

Last Updated: May-17-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This book is subtitled, "Toward a Psychology of Suffering." In the first chapter, Bakan sketches a theory of disease as telic decentralization. He defines "telos" as that which is "determinant of form." In multicellular organisms, there are multiple, subsidiary tele, as well as an overall telos of the organism. Growth and development can occur only if there is a certain degree of telic decentralization, yet disease can also result from this internal separation or estrangement. Bakan supports this theory with arguments from post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, Selye, and Freud.

In the second chapter, Bakan considers pain as the psychic manifestation of telic decentralization. Suffering is a pain-annihilation complex: the experience of pain external to the ego, associated with an internal fear of annihilation. In the last chapter, the author considers the Book of Job as a literary approach to understanding the meaning of pain, sacrifice, and suffering.

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Fever

Hughes, Ted

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is one in a series written by Ted Hughes, addressing his wife, the American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. Here, the speaker recalls a time when he and his wife were living in Spain, and she became ill: "You lay helpless and a little bit crazy / With the fever." For Plath, the illness seems intolerable. She whispers, "Help me" to her husband, "crie[s] out for America," and sobs "I am going to die." He takes care of her, feeling as if he is "a nursemaid" or "suddenly mother." He cooks soup and spoon feeds her.

What worries him, though, is her reaction to being ill. He wonders whether she's exaggerating, and fears that if she treats a fever as if it were "the most impossible / Of all horrible things," then how will she be "when things get really bad"? He feels himself withdraw his sympathy for her, but then he recognizes what he calls "the overload"--a bluntedness which he likens to "the callous / That eases overwhelmed doctors."

The end of the poem is ambiguous: both he and his wife are overloaded; where her response is (hyper?) sensitivity, his is anesthesia. He continues to feed her the soup. (67 lines)

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