Showing 81 - 84 of 84 annotations tagged with the keyword "Heart Disease"

Whither Thou Goest

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Nov-05-1999
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story


This story draws attention to subtle ramifications of organ transplantation for the survivor(s) of the donor as well as for the organ recipient. Also at issue is coming to terms with the sudden death of a loved one. Hannah, a woman in her thirties, finds that three years after the violent death of her husband, she is still caught, "unable to grieve or get on with her life . . . . "

The physician in charge had persuaded her both to allow life-support to be terminated for her brain-dead husband, and to agree to organ donation. "That way your husband will live on." Seven different people are the living recipients of his organs. To Hannah, it seems that her husband is both dead and not dead, an intolerable situation.

She becomes obsessed with trying to meet the person who received her husband's heart. This will be the means by which she can re-connect to the living and achieve closure--she will hear and feel her husband's heart in the chest of the recipient, her ear "a mollusc that would attach itself . . . and cling through whatever crash of the sea." At the end of the story, Hannah has succeeded in her quest and the man who is the heart's recipient, at first suspiciously hostile, has become Hannah's co-conspirator and protector.

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The White Life

Stein, Michael

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


Today, Friday June 5th, I am going to meet the man who killed my father. So begins the narrator of this novel, who is about to drive to New Jersey to visit the physician (now retired) who took care of his father during his final illness 20 years previously. The narrator (Peter Cave), who was an adolescent at the time, is now a physician himself.

Most of the novel is a flashback in which the narrator describes his life during the several days prior to June 5th, "the white life," which is the term he uses for the practice of medicine. We learn, in particular, about his patient George Dittus, a difficult man who definitely doesn't want to play the hospital game. "I need to get home" is the first thing Dittus says. Dr. Cave wants to save the life of this gruff, eccentric man who may well have had a serious heart attack, but at the same time, he tries--sometimes painfully--to respect the patient's desire to be in charge.

Cave's encounter with the retired Dr. Gresser, who remembers the elder Cave as a difficult patient, is surprising--"You know he refused to take the medicines I suggested." Cave is disappointed; he wanted a confrontation with the man who "killed" his father, but, instead, is confronted with the realities of human nature. Back at the hospital, he discharges George Dittus, who disappears into the inscrutable future.

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Heart Transplant

Holub, Miroslav

Last Updated: Feb-06-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


In typically terse poetic structure, utilizing fresh new images, Holub visualizes removal and replacement of a human heart during a transplant procedure. He describes the throb of the extracorporeal circulation mechanics as an "inaudible New World Symphony" as he elevates the imagery of the hole in the chest where once resided the "king of Blood" transiently into the cosmos. With the arrival of the "new heart," the imagery again becomes earth bound: the structure is sewn in place, the beats resume and the "curves jump like / synthetic sheep" as the EKG rhythm resumes.

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The Lost Art of Healing

Lown, Bernard

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir


This autobiographical account of Dr. Lown's five decades of practice and research in cardiovascular medicine is both a history of the field and a history of a man passionately interested in people and healing. The book is divided into six sections: Hearing the Patient: The Art of Diagnosis; Healing the Patient: The Art of Doctoring; Healing the Patient: Science; Incurable Problems; The Rewards of Doctoring; and The Art of Being a Patient.

The first three sections comprise the bulk of the book: Lown chronicles his early medical training and career through stories of memorable patients, anecdotes about key role models (particularly Dr. Samuel A. Levine), and histories of medical mistakes, diagnostic acumen, and his remarkable research innovations. These achievements include the introduction of intravenous lidocaine, cardioversion and defibrillation, and development of the coronary care unit.

The core of the book, however, is about how deeply Lown cares for his patients. He states, “This book is a small recompense to my patients, ultimately my greatest teachers, who helped me to become a doctor.” The book contains many reflections on medical practice, such as this definition of medical wisdom: “It is the capacity to comprehend a clinical problem at its mooring, not in an organ, but in a human being.”

In a thoughtful chapter on death and dying, Lown muses on his emotional and spiritual responses to encounters with death, and bemoans the medical profession's increasing tendency to “put technology between us and our patients, to spare us the grief of failing to confront our own mortality.” In the final chapter, Lown takes an unusual twist, and writes a treatise to patients on how to get the doctor to truly pay attention to them and what are reasonable expectations to have of one's doctor.

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