Showing 611 - 620 of 667 Nonfiction annotations

Consoling Mrs. Byrne

Moore, Breanndan

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

A surgical intern has participated in 86 year old Mrs. Byrnes's abdominal surgery, where extensive metastases from ovarian cancer are found. The surgeons take biopsies, confirm the diagnosis, and close her abdomen, knowing that her case is not treatable. Later that day, it falls to the intern to inform Mrs. Byrne of what they found.

The author describes how he avoided the task, finding other chores to do, appealing to the attending physician to not make him talk to the patient. The attending insists, and the author finally finds the nerve to talk with his patient. Much to his surprise, she has already suspected that she has cancer, tells him not to be upset, and assures him he did his best. The author discovered that learning to be a doctor meant being open to learning from his patients.

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Communion

Weinberg, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The physician author is puzzled about what he can do to help a young woman who comes to him for treatment of her chronic abdominal pain. She has had every test, seen every specialist, and has no clear diagnosis. Only on the third visit, which she has initiated, does he discover that she was sexually assaulted at age 14. He is the only person she has told.

He immediately feels out of his element, and asks her to see a psychiatrist. She refuses, and insists he handle her care. He sets up open-ended visits to allow her time to talk, and looks for help in the medical literature and from a psychiatrist colleague.

Over time, as they explore her feelings and experiences, his patient gains self esteem and transforms herself into a confident, beautiful woman, planning on travel, school, and career. After her last visit with him, he realizes, "I had been chosen to receive a gift of trust, and of all the gifts I had ever received, none seemed as precious."

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Theo's Story

Kovalchik, Michael

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

A nephrologist is named in a lawsuit after serving as a consulting physician in a diabetes case. The diabetic patient had had a serious infection and later his leg was amputated; he apparently felt the doctors neglected the seriousness of his condition. When the dialysis unit treating this patient requests to transfer his care to the author, whose unit is in the patient's home town, the author is uncertain what to do.

The author is angry about the law suit, and his colleagues counsel him to refuse to take this patient. But after realizing that the lawsuit was merely a reflection of the patient's suffering, and that he needs the same compassion and care as any other human being, the author agrees to accept the patient. The author discovers that his patient is a meek, gentle man; over time, he helps him come to terms with his illness, his disability, and his approaching death. Eventually the patient drops his malpractice suit.

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A Very Easy Death

Beauvoir, Simone de

Last Updated: Dec-18-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

A retrospective and reflective review of the last weeks in the life of the author's aging mother. Threaded throughout the chronicle of the progressive downhill course of the patient dying of cancer are flashbacks to the earlier relationships among the author, her sister, and their mother. The course of the illness enables the reader to view many of the common problems that inform the doctor-patient, nurse-patient, and parent-child relationship. The narrator, who is an accomplished writer, creates vivid and timely images of the hospital as experienced by the lay person.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In this memoir Sheed reflects on his experience of three major illnesses: polio; clinical depression, related to alcoholism and sleeping pill addiction; and cancer. He contrasts the incongruous and paradoxical "inner life" of illness, with the often oversimplified prototypical experience represented by AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] literature, various psychiatric orthodoxies, and popular media.

Issues that arise include the tension between medical authority and patient experience, caregivers' and clinicians' projections, friends' and family's misapprehensions, and the surprises, both welcome and horrifying, that occur in the course of treatment and recovery because no illness, mental or physical, follows a textbook format.

The narrative is a wry examination of games patients play as well as a confession, dry and witty but also extraordinarily perceptive, of the failed and false expectations, pretenses, fears, resistances, rage, and qualified pleasures that characterized his personal odysseys through illnesses that have often been simplified and obscured by popular mythmaking.

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Last Things

Spark, Debra

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The author recounts the last months of her sister's life as she slowly died of breast cancer in her mid-20's. The narrator and her sister, Cyndy, renegotiate their relationship and family roles throughout the illness. The narrator addresses the issue of living despite the prospect of dying, and of trying not to die while in the midst of attempting to live one's life. The narrator also recognizes the centrality of desire (in its broadest sense) in our lives, and describes our guilt about satiating our desires, the sense of loss from not ever really satiating them, and the inability to satisfy the desires of another.

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Stillborn

Fischer, Maribeth

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

A grown daughter recounts how her mother suddenly left her family for another man and moved away. The author feels alternately puzzled and betrayed by her mother's leaving. With her mother's help, she explores the complex connections between her mother's action and her mother's experience of having a stillborn child many years before.

She describes how each family member reacted to the discovery that the child was stillborn, how the nurses took the baby away and wouldn't let her parents hold him, and how little they actually grieved over or talked about the baby afterward. In her role as protector of her family, shielding everyone else from the pain of the stillbirth, the author's mother lost something central of herself. She left her family in order to begin to find it.

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On the Death of a Parent

McLoughlin, J., ed.

Last Updated: Nov-04-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Memoirs)

Summary:

In this collection, sixteen writers (including the editor, in her introduction) recount the deaths of one or both of their parents. They explore a wide range of questions: about the relationship between parents and their children, about the inevitability of the loss of that relationship (if it is lost in death, for, as the editor asks, "is the death of a parent really the end of the relationship?" [p. 2]), and about the conflicts that arise between the necessary separation that comes with adulthood and the complex ongoing attachments which in these stories enrich, haunt, inform and in many ways determine the lives of the tellers.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This history of western medicine focuses on British life in the eighteenth century. Williams begins his treatise by wondering if "we realize sufficiently what we have escaped by being alive in the twentieth, not the eighteenth, century." He then catalogues in the subsequent 12 chapters the agonies not only of illness but also of medical treatment in the 1700’s.

Topics are wide-ranging and include blood-letting, parturition, infant malnutrition, rampant infectious diseases, maltreatment of the insane, surgery prior to anesthesia, water therapy, and military medicine. Primary source quotations interspersed in the narrative add to the drama. For example, the deposition of a widower (his wife died while pregnant) is quoted: " . . . Being taken ill of a paine in her right side under her short ribb together with a great difficulty of breathing having but 14 weeks to go with Child Mr Hugh Chamberlen Senr was sent for to take care of her, who thereupon gave her in the space of nine days four vomitts, four purges, and caused her to be bled three times to the quantity of eight ounces each time: Then gave her something to raise a spitting after which swellings and Ulcers in her mouth followed . . . . " (p. 31)

A few medical advances at the close of the century are also described, notably the smallpox vaccine developed by Jenner and the administration of First Aid to wounded soldiers at the frontlines (developed by Larrey). The text is accompanied by black and white illustrations, such as an inside view of Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital) by William Hogarth (A Rake’s Progress, plate VIII).

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This thoroughly researched book helps us understand John Keats's life and work in terms of his medical training. Goellnicht argues that, contrary to some critics' view that Keats was "anti-scientific" or "anti-intellectual," Keats incorporated much of the knowledge gained from his six years of medical training into his poetry.

The book begins with a chapter of biographical information about Keats, emphasizing the nature of medical training in the early nineteenth century, but includes Keats's self-diagnosis of tuberculosis. The heart of the book consists of four chapters, organized by scientific topic, which relate the specifics of Keats' s medical training to his writing: Chemistry, Botany, Anatomy and Physiology, and Pathology and Medicine.

Excerpts of Keats' poetic and epistolary writing are examined in each of these chapters in light of Keats' scientific and medical knowledge. For instance, in the chapter on Botany, the uses of specific botanical species in his writing are examined in terms of what was known of materia medica (see annotation for Ode on Melancholy. Furthermore, the author explores Keats's interest in plants and trees as metaphors for life, such as his interest in "the flower as a vital, but passive, being that exists in a state akin to negative capability."

The author concludes the book with a summary statement about each of the chapters (e.g., " . . . from pathology he adopted the approach of viewing aspects of life, in particular love and poetic creativity, in terms of morbid and healthy states . . . ") and also the caveat that the book is not meant to in any way diminish other profound influences on Keats, such as his interactions with other Romantic poets. Goellnicht notes, however, that Keats himself united the worlds of medicine and poetry in his poem, "The Fall of Hyperion," in which he describes the poet as a physician.

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