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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).
Richard Kraft is about as burnt-out as a fifth-year resident in pediatric surgery can be. Overwhelmed by his stint in an inner-city, public hospital in Los Angeles, he seeks to hide from the misery of his patients by avoiding any personal connection with them. Then he meets twelve-year-old Joy, an Asian immigrant trying desperately to learn the puzzling ways of her new culture. She speaks words that trigger memories from Kraft's own childhood as the son of a U.S. agent in Joy's country, and he loses his distance.
He performs surgery on a life-threatening cancer in her leg, pulling back at the last minute in an unreasonable fear that he will hurt her if he cuts too deep. The implied result: incomplete excision of the cancer and a death sentence for the child he now tries, unsuccessfully to avoid. His avoidance is repeatedly foiled by Linda Espera, the physical therapist with whom he is falling in love and who will not let him abandon the emotional needs of any of the children in Joy's ward.
Novelist Isabel Allende's daughter, Paula, died after entering into a coma following an acute attack of a porphyria disease. Allende was at her daughter's side in a hospital in Spain, where Paula was living with her husband, and later in Allende's home in California, where Paula spent the last months of her life.
When Paula first lost consciousness, Allende began writing for her an account of her illness, which soon grew into a memoir of Allende's own life: "Listen, Paula, I am going tell you a story, so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost" (p. 3), Allende begins. As Allende tells of her childhood, political and feminist awakenings, and her growth as a writer, she also watches Paula sink deeper and deeper into coma. She remains insistent, however, that Paula will recover, works in secret with a sympathetic physician to wean Paula from the respirator that breathes for her, then flies her back to California for rehabilitation.
In the end, though, she faces the reality that Paula will not recover, and, as she finishes telling Paula the story of her own life, she discovers that she has found the strength to let Paula go. Paula dies in a sunny room in Allende's house, surrounded by family and friends.
Seventy-nine year old Dame Lettie Colson begins to receive anonymous phone calls from a man whose message is, "Remember, you must die." Soon, her octogenarian brother, her senile sister-in-law, and many of their tottery friends begin to receive similar phone messages.
The novel takes us through a year or so in the lives of this group of eccentric elderly upper-class Brits and a few of their not-so-privileged servants and caretakers. As they pursue the source of the "memento mori" message, we discover a complex matrix of infidelity and deception, ranging from youthful love affairs and harmless perversions to manipulation and blackmail. In the end, though, Death will not be denied.
This book is a series of essays about the illness experience. The author developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) after a viral illness in 1988. Suddenly, this 41-year-old public policy analyst, who was also a successful writer and a competitive runner, was thrust into the world of severe disability. He developed subtle but extensive neurological deficits that affected his concentration and memory. For months he could hardly get out of bed. He discovered that not only was the cause of CFS unknown, many physicians did not even believe it was a "real" illness.
"Double Blind" tells the story of Skloot's participation in an ill-fated clinical trial of Ampligen, an experimental treatment for CFS. Other essays describe the author's experience with alternative medicine, including an intensive course of Ayurvedic "detoxification" ("Healing Powers") and a visit to Germany to encounter Mother Meera, an avatar of the Divine Mother ("Honeymooning With the Feminine Divine").
"Home Remedies" presents his comic experience with helpful calls and letters telling him how to get rid of the illness. Other essays deal with Skloot's learning to cope with chronic disability. A final section includes poems about the illness experience of several composers and artists (e.g. Carl Maria von Weber, George Gershwin, and Vincent van Gogh).
Dr. Terry McKechnie works in the emergency room in a Los Angeles hospital in the early 1990’s, and is having an affair with Virginia Lee, the new wife of an old friend of his from medical school. Virginia works with snakes. She is attracted to danger. She falls in love with Terry immediately after deciding to marry the reliable Rick, with his predictable dermatologist’s hours and habits.
Virginia is bitten by a rare snake and drives herself to Terry’s hospital. The drive is terrifyingly described, time seeming to move at two speeds at once, as Virginia sits stuck in traffic trying not to panic, the terse prose capturing her efforts at clarity even as the rapid effects of the venom begin to cloud her thoughts. Because she is allergic to horses, the antivenom, made of horse serum, cannot be given to her, and she begins to bleed. Unfortunately, she also has an extremely rare blood type.
As well as being a doctor, Terry is a "universal donor": his blood can be given to people with most other blood types without danger of rejection. His gift fails him at this point, however: Virginia must be given blood of her own type. One person has such blood: a psychopath on the run from the police whom Terry had previously allowed to escape. The novel’s plot culminates in Terry’s search for and encounter with the convict, in which he persuades him to give his blood (and, necessarily his freedom--he is arrested in the hospital) and Virginia survives.
May's Lion is really two stories in one: the first is narrated by a woman who knew May, the story's protagonist, when the narrator was a child, and she retells the story May told her about the time a sick mountain lion came into her yard. Uncertain of what to do, she called the sheriff's office. Police officers shot the lion because, according to May, "there was nothing else they knew how to do."
The second story is the narrator's fictionalized recounting of May's story. In this version, May (now called "Rains End") finds the lion in her yard, and in spite of her own fear she believes he has come for a reason. She offers the animal a bowl of milk, and sings softly to soothe him. She realizes "He had come for company in dying; that was all." This she offers him, and the lion dies there in her yard.
Summary:Determined not to like Ruth Thomas, Ann Stanley is immediately smitten by her charm and force of personality, and especially by her vitality--a vitality that too soon succumbs to breast cancer. As one of a cadre of women almost obsessively devoted to the care of a dying Ruth, Ann nurses Ruth through her final illness, until--in a move curiously like the decision of Charity (also dying of cancer) to keep Sid, her husband, sequestered from her final trip to the hospital, in Wallace Stegner's far superior novel, Crossing to Safety--Ruth flies to Florida to die at her brother's house.
Showalter identifies clusters of syndromes, or mini-epidemics, which she suggests represent late-twentieth century manifestations of the entity which was called hysteria in nineteenth century western culture. Opening with the history of psychiatry's involvement in hysteria in the time of Charcot and Freud, she traces the replacement of hysteria or conversion reaction by modern hysterical analogues such as: chronic fatigue syndrome, recovered memory, Gulf War syndrome, multiple personality syndrome, satanic ritual abuse, and alien abduction.
In separate chapters she examines each of these entities--how it presents, how it fits into her theory of mass hysteria as a cultural response to the millennium, and how it is being handled by health care professionals. Showalter contends that "Redefining hysteria as a universal human response to emotional conflict is a better course than evading, denying, or projecting its realities." (p. 17)
This is a truly beautiful novel; its many stories remain with the reader for a long time. It is the semi-autobiographical story of the myriad of issues which are manifest as one family deals with the terminal illness of the mother from cancer.
A daughter, who has never considered herself close to her mother, is forced by her father to leave her job as a journalist in New York, to come home and become the primary caregiver. Over a period of several months the mother has chemotherapy and eventually gives up to the slow deterioration of the disease. During this time the mother and daughter rebuild a relationship and come to have mutual respect for each other. One poignant aspect of the relationship is their establishment of "The Gulden Girls Book and Cook Club" as they read old classics together and the mother teaches the daughter the cooking secrets which she has cherished.
The father, a college professor and former mentor of the daughter, absents himself from the home as much as possible, unable to deal with the issues. The female oncologist is very helpful and understanding with both the patient and the daughter. A wonderful hospice nurse gives welcome support. The question of assisted suicide becomes an issue after the mother's death; the daughter is arrested. There is a surprise ending which should not be revealed here, but offers a good forum for discussion.