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Perri Klass, who had already written of her medical school education (A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student, see this database), took notes, made dashed journal entries, and saved sign-out sheets and other written memorabilia during her internship and residency in pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Because she is a writer, she looked at her experiences in medical training with an eye towards what stories were happening. This book then is a compendium of stories and essays (some previously published) about Klass’s pediatrics training.
Klass reflects on the difficulties of being a writer and physician: "I have been a double parasite, not only learning off patients, but also writing about them, turning the agonies of sick children into articles, using them to point little morals either about my own development as a doctor or about the dilemmas of modern medicine." (p. 297) But she also notes the benefits of writing during training: "between life at the hospital and with my family, it seemed that all my time was spoken for, and spoken for again. I needed some corner of my life which was all my own, and that corner was writing . . . I could describe the astonishing contacts with life and death which make up everyday routine in the hospital." (p. xvii)
Part of the book concerns issues of women in medicine; Klass debunks the mystique of the "superwoman"--the professional, wife and mother rolled up into one incredible ball of efficiency and perfection--with a month of laundry spilling over the floor. Klass, as a successful writer, struggles with this label and includes an essay on her experiences with a "crazy person" who anonymously and publicly accuses her of plagiarism in the midst of the stress and responsibilities of residency.
However, most of the book is about being a new doctor--the terror, the patients, the procedures, the other doctors and staff. She writes of first nights in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, delivery room crises, adolescents with chronic illnesses, and her struggles as a sleep and time deprived mother.
She addresses difficult issues: moral dilemmas, suffering, loss, the rape and abuse of children, children with AIDS. Throughout the book is a concern for the patient’s experience, as well as the doctor-in-training’s experience. After her first night on call caring for very premature infants she notes: "Maybe my first patient and I have more in common than I realized: we are both too immature to be out in the world, but with a lot of help, we may just make it." (p. 15)
This book is a sequence of poems about Frank Goldin, a middle-aged biochemist who is admitted to a mental hospital, Elmhurst, with the chief complaint, "I hear a thousand voices and must respond to each." In the first poem Goldin confesses his sins, but simple confession doesn't get to the root of his dilemma, the existential ambiguity that plagues him.
During Goldin's dark night of the soul, his scientific self struggles with the mysterious longing within. Dr. Hudspeth, the Elmhurst psychiatrist, directs his support to the part of Goldin that says, "I am the restless biochemical cycle / that pours out glutathione in buckets." In essence, just straighten out the chemicals and you'll get better.
Throughout the book Goldin waits for his wife Helen to visit Elmhurst, but she never appears. He ruminates over the matter of confessing that he had an affair with a woman named Da-ling during a professional meeting in Osaka. If he confesses, if Helen comes, Goldin hopes that things will return to the way the way they used to be.
However, the mysterious side of Goldin is looking for something else. He has visions of the ancient Rabbi Yehuda of Smyrna, who asks, "Why do we not even know how to ask a question properly?" After several weeks Goldin leaves Elmhurst with the feeling that he has made progress, but not in any discernible direction. Goldin concludes that he should be grateful, but he asks, "to whom?"
Anne Finger, a writer and disabled activist whose childhood polio left her with a disability, tells the story of her pregnancy, her birth experience at home and in the hospital, and the serious health problems her newborn son experienced.
Helen Martin is an expert on medical art. She travels by train through Europe--Vienna, Prague, and Munich--looking for her journalist husband who has vanished for a longer time than usual. Their marriage is childless and flat. On the train, she awakens to temporary but surreal changes in her body--her breasts are enormous, her thighs huge. She meets her alter ego, Rosa, an obese and aging woman doctor, and original owner of the sizable breasts and thighs.
Rosa’s gift of a strange book-like box, containing images from Vesalius, bones, vials, leads her to many other people, including a blind intellectual, a philosophical train conductor, and a soon-to-be-murdered museum curator. These people add objects to the box, while removing others and awakening her dormant senses and identity in the process.
Helen learns that her husband disappeared while researching a story about woodblocks from the great 1543 anatomical atlas by Andreas Vesalius. The woodblocks are believed to have been destroyed in the allied bombing of Munich in World War II, but Helen suspects some have survived. She picks up the work where he left it. The rediscovery of her husband--temporarily at home in Vancouver and irritated not to find her there--comes as an anti-climax. Helen realizes she does not want him any more and boards another train to we know not where.
Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy (Charles Berling) travels to the court of Louis XVI at Versailles seeking support for his plan to drain a marsh in order to relieve his poverty-stricken community from the scourge of malarial fever. Naive in the ways of court, he is robbed and left on the road for dead. A kindly doctor and would-be courtier (Bernard Girardeau) finds Grégoire and nurses him back to health with the help of his beautiful and highly intelligent daughter, Mathilde (Judith Godréche).
Grégoire accompanies the doctor to court where he quickly excels in the fine arts of repartee, ridicule, and sang-froid. Seeing this practice as a route to the king, Grégoire plays the game well and begins to have fun, in spite of himself. He attracts the attention of the influential Comtesse de Blayac (Fanny Ardent) with whom he sleeps, despite his love for Mathilde.
A peasant child's death at home inflames his obsession over the marsh. At the moment he is finally about to have the king's attention, he duels with an officer over a matter of honor; he wins the duel but loses his regal audience for having shot a royal soldier. The film ends in the Revolution: Grégoire and Mathilde are well launched in their drainage project and the doctor is an émigré on the English coast learning the fine arts of British humor.
Summary:In the Renaissance double portrait (c. 1480), an elderly man and a young boy gaze into each other's eyes. The old man is wearing a vermilion robe which gives his presence a vivid solidity. The child, painted in profile, rests his hand on one arm of the man whose other arm embraces him. The warmth of the orangey red is complemented by the cool gray-green wall behind the pair. A window opens the wall, revealing a peaceful sky and a distant mountainous landscape.
Dr. Pensack writes in the first chapter of his memoir: "Through a lifetime I have been in the process of dying, consistently surprised when reminded that life is appallingly brief, and briefer still for me. The prospect of an early death has amounted to little more than embarrassment and loneliness, even though the routine of living can be, and usually is, just one goddamn thing after another. A new heart was somehow supposed to be my bloody-red carpet of victory." (p. 7)
At age 4, Pensack's mother died of IHSS, Idiopathic Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis--now known as HCM, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a genetically inherited, progressive disease of heart muscle that results in early death. At age 15, Pensack receives the terrible news of his own fate--the disease afflicts both Pensack and his older brother--and thus launches a life of near death experiences, numerous hospitalizations, early experiences at the National Institutes of Health with early investigators of the disease, pursuit of his own medical training and eventual specialty training in psychiatry, marriage and children, and ultimately, the waiting and eventual transplantation of a younger man's heart into his chest at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center when Pensack was 43.
Raising Lazarus tells of Pensack's journey through much of this, including his descent into madness, his fury and anger with medical colleagues, his poignant relationship with the heart surgeon who eventually performs the transplant, and the importance of his family in his refusal to die. While much of the book tells of the events leading to the transplant and post-operative period of Pensack's life, the reader learns of Pensack's early losses, including the death of his mother, and how these experiences shape the values of a gutsy and determined survivor, a man who continually returns to the struggle.
Izzy, a popular, active cheerleader, happily accepts a date with an attractive senior she doesn't know well, flattered to be noticed by him. At the party her date drinks too much, insists on driving her home anyway, and smashes the car into a tree. Marco suffers only surface wounds, but Izzy's leg is crushed and has to be amputated just below the knee.
During her weeks in the hospital Izzy finds that not only is her whole physical orientation to the world required to change--she suddenly sees every path in terms of obstacles--but her relationship to family and friends changes, too. Her three closest friends begin to avoid her, uncertain what to say or how to include her in their plans. In the meantime Rosamunde, a marginal classmate whose slightly unkempt appearance and quirky behavior makes her entertaining, but excludes her from the "in" crowd, moves into Izzy's world with curiosity, frankness, inventive amusements and a steady, if offbeat compassion.
In her impassive and demanding African American physical therapist Izzy discovers another unexpected source of comfort on terms she doesn't at first recognize as kind. As the story ends, Izzy is back at school, finding her way into a new, more challenging relationship to her body and her peers, and a friendship with Rosamunde unlike any she's known before.
This novel is a fictionalized version of a true story. In 1973 John Cappelletti from Penn State won the Heisman trophy, given to the outstanding college football player each year. When he received the award, he publicly "awarded" it to his little brother, Joey, then suffering from leukemia.
The story covers the two years prior to that event, a period when the relationship between the brothers deepened as John moved upward to fame and Joey's illness ran its slow course toward his eventual death in 1976. It provides many scenes from family life that show the range of ways a loving family of five children and a daughter-in-law collaborate in supporting Joey through hospital visits, remissions, a near-fatal coma, and increasing bouts of severe pain.
Jeff, a college-bound senior, is about to break up with his girlfriend, Christy, when she announces she is pregnant. He had stopped using condoms when she announced she was on the pill. He urges her to get an abortion. She wants to have the baby.
The pregnancy separates them, puts a deep dent in Jeff's plans for college, and hinders his participation on the nationally ranked debate team. He finds himself blamed, blaming, reacting stupidly (he gets drunk one evening and has to be picked up by his mother at the police station), and stuck in denial about his responsibilities until grad night when Christy is taken in for a caesarean section and the baby is born at 33 weeks.
Jeff, whose own father is distant and negligent, finds himself wanting to be a father to the child. As he starts college, he works out a way to share parenting responsibilities and maintain a friendly relationship with Christy even while he begins a new, more mature relationship with a young woman in college.