Showing 621 - 630 of 690 Nonfiction annotations

Road Song

Kusz, Natalie

Last Updated: Mar-08-1998
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a memoir, one that tells of a family’s move from California to the more rarefied life of the Alaskan wilderness. Living in a trailer and, later, a house they build, the family struggles with harsh winters and little money, maintaining their belief in the superiority of this way of life over what the parents had begun to experience as enervating in the mainland U.S.

At the age of seven, Natalie is savagely attacked by a neighbor’s sled dog. The attack leaves her with half of her face and numerous other serious wounds. In and out of consciousness as her mother and the neighbors await an ambulance, she remembers "the dogs, and their chains, and my own blood on the snow," (50) as well as the sensation of being moved on the stretcher and hearing one of the neighbor’s children say "Natalie’s dying."

Doctors told her parents she would not be likely to survive more than two days, and this memoir tells of her survival against the odds, spending years in and out of hospitals with numerous surgeries. Kusz weaves tales of her family’s history (her father was a Polish Russian) and the intense love that sustained them throughout her healing and arduous recovery and, later, her teenage pregnancy (and decision to keep the baby) and, finally, her mother’s early death and the progress of the family’s grief and recovery.

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Summary:

William Morton first introduced ether anesthesia in 1846. This was followed shortly by nitrous oxide and chloroform. Within a few years, surgical anesthesia was being used throughout the United States. However, widespread acceptance did not mean universal usage. Physicians and surgeons debated the risks and benefits of anesthesia. Anesthesia was thought to be dangerous. Some argued that pain was a necessary part of life, that it made people stronger, and/or that it was a punishment from God. Others argued that anesthesia constituted an abuse of medical power.

Surgeons took care to select appropriate patients for anesthesia, while performing surgery without anesthetics on others. Women, people of higher social and economic classes, and people of the white race were thought to be more sensitive to pain than men, the poor, and Negroes and American Indians. Likewise, the young experienced pain more than the elderly. Certain procedures (e.g. major limb amputations and prolonged tissue dissection) were also thought to require more anesthetic than others (e.g. natural childbirth or ENT surgery). These beliefs carried over into practice, as evidenced by records from the Massachusetts General Hospital and other hospitals in the mid-19th century.

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The Body in Pain

Scarry, Elaine

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Scarry argues that pain is the most absolute definer of reality. For the person in pain, there is no reality besides pain; if it hurts, it must be real. This characteristic of pain makes it useful politically. In torture, for example, the reality of the one being tortured is reduced to an awareness of pain, while the torturer’s world remains fully present. This is realized most emphatically when torture is described as information-gathering. The torturer insists on questions that for the tortured are no longer of any concern.

War also makes use of pain. In the dispute that leads to war, one country’s beliefs are pitted against another’s. Both sides’ positions are thus called into question; if there is disagreement about the facts, it becomes apparent that the facts are based in opinion, not reality. The injured bodies of war re-connect the victor’s beliefs with the material world. If the injured body is the ultimate in reality, the injured bodies of war can be used to signify the reality of the victor’s position. Simultaneously, the pain of individuals in war is transferred to inanimate objects or large groups. Thus, one speaks of "Division Six" being wounded or weapons being disabled.

This language also uses the absolute reality of the body in pain to secure the truth of a cultural/political position. Scarry discusses the reality-producing quality of pain in Judeo-Christian scriptures, Marx, and humans’ relationships with inanimate objects.

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An Anthropologist on Mars

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Case Studies)

Summary:

This book, which is subtitled "Seven Paradoxical Tales," contains seven of Oliver Sacks' clinical stories of persons whose unusual neurological deficits teach us something about the way the brain (and, therefore, the mind) works. In "The Case of the Colorblind Painter" an artist learns to adapt to a completely black-and-white world after sustaining trauma to his occipital lobe.

"The Last Hippie" portrays a man whose ability to form new memories was destroyed by a massive midline brain tumor; he still "lives" in the 1960's. "A Surgeon's Life" depicts a Canadian surgeon with Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome, showing how he is able to live as a respected member of the community and practice surgery despite this disabling condition. "To See and Not See" tells the tale of a man in his 50's who is suddenly able to see after being blind since early childhood.

In "The Landscape of His Dreams" Sacks introduces a painter who, after a serious illness in the 1960's, apparently developed extraordinary and persistent "waking visions" of Pontito, his hometown in Italy. For many years he has obsessively painted remarkably accurate scenes of Pontito. "Prodogies" and "An Anthropologist on Mars" both deal with autism. The first tells of an autistic boy from England who has remarkable skill in visual memory and drawing; the second is about an autistic woman with a Ph.D. in animal science, who teaches at Colorado State University.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In his study, Professor Starr examines the evolution of the practice and the culture of medicine in the United States from the end of the colonial period into the last quarter of the twentieth century. His major concerns are with the development of authority, and the Janus image of professionalization as medicine has gained power, technical expertise, and effective modes of diagnosis and treatment and at the same time seems to be getting further from the patient.

At the time of publication, our society had finally begun to take a hard look at the impracticality and the inhumanity of continuing on the trajectory of American medicine developed one hundred years ago. Starr invites the reader to consider the impact of modern stress on the profession and, more intently, on the constituency it is dedicated to serve.

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Bedside Manners

Shorter, Edward

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This study explores the history of physician-patient relationships, especially as it relates to the ascendancy of science in medicine. The book begins by describing traditional physician-patient relationships in the 18th century. The focus, however, is on the "modern" doctor (beginning in the 1880's) and the "postmodern" doctor (beginning in the 1950's).

The author describes the transition from modern to postmodern doctor and a corresponding transition from modern to postmodern patient. A "sympathetic alliance" between physician and patient was essentially a development of the modern period (1880's - 1950's).

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The Horse and Buggy Doctor

Hertzler, Arthur

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Dr. Hertzler leads the reader, topically and generally chronologically, through the nature of the practice of medicine in rural America from the 1880's through the 1930's. His early narratives are those of a child observing the ravages of epidemic diseases in the face of medical futility.

The remainder of the work, divided into subject headings, is devoted to anecdotes and observations on such things as horse and buggy home visits, kitchen surgery, the proprietary hospital and physician education. Having served not only as a rural practitioner, but as a professor of pathology at academic centers and a consulting surgeon, Hertzler draws on a wide experience over a period of time known for rapid advances in basic biological science which would, near the end of the narrator's life, open the way for technological medicine as we know it today.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This collection of vignettes follows the growth and development of one internist as he reflects on some of the critical experiences that shaped him as physician. The common thread of the work is the celebration of the relationship that can, and perhaps should, be built between the physician and his or her patient in the course of caring: this relationship is the sacred space of the title.

The author accomplishes his self-imposed task of describing this space by presenting situations in his practice life that illustrate the concept. The chronological structure of the collection enables the reader to study the maturation of the author as a self-reflective practitioner over the many decades of his professional life. Many of the stories are very funny; others are wrenching; all are gently told.

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Tuesdays with Morrie

Albom, Mitch

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

Tuesdays with Morrie is a series of lessons a former (and now current) student has with his teacher (and now mentor) about facing one's death and living one's life. The author, Mitch Albom, is an award-winning sports columnist with the Detroit Free Press. A chance encounter propels Albom, guiltily and fearfully, to the bedside of Morrie Schwartz, his sociology teacher at Brandeis University nearly twenty years ago. [This chance encounter occurs electronically--Albom saw Morrie speaking about dying from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) with Ted Koppel on the Nightline television program].

Once together again, teacher and student decide to extend the visit over the remaining months of Morrie's life. Their Tuesday "seminars" explore perennial value issues of everyday life: "Family," "Emotions," "Money," "Marriage," "Our Culture," Fear of Aging," etc. The interchanges, fortunately, are studded with "pearls of wisdom" from Morrie.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Canadian artist, Robert Pope (d.1992), devoted the last years of his short life to documenting his decade-long experience as a patient with Hodgkin's Disease. Shortly after his diagnosis he was influenced by the 1945 autobiographical novel of Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Pope's early work explored the interconnectedness and pain of individuals bound by an imperfect love, in Smart's case for a married man. After his disease went into remission, he began to paint the patient's perspective on illness, hospitals, visitors, family, and health-care providers in a series of images that suggest the lighting of de la Tour, the photographic immediacy of Doisneau, and the menacing surrealism of de Chirico. His book, Illness and Healing: Images of Cancer (1991), became a bestseller.

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