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Smile! Confessions of a Fiitness!

The Path through Literature in Medicine

Literature in Medicine has taught me a different perspective within medicine. It was an out and out mind blowing experience and a fascinating class of Literature. There is so much I have learned within the classroom starting from Emily Dickenson, pain, to The Death of Ivan Ilych, and death. I have enjoyed my time and experience within the classroom reading assignments of poems, short stories, and novels. These reading assignments gave a different insight of medicine and can be interpreted in so many ways. From all the reading assignments two have struck me the most.  Pain by Emily Dickenson and Stitches: A Memoir by David Small were the two I connected with the most. These two authors have helped me understand and demonstrate a different perspective and interruption of Medicine. In addition, the evolution of hospitals, doctors and institutions have change over the years.

In her poem of Pain, Emily Dickenson made me think of pain differently. At first I wondered why is my Professor making us reading this poem, and how pain especially Emily poem Pain can reflect throughout the class. When I recited the poem of Pain to the class, I realized that pain is not a feeling but is actually a thing that we cannot see however; we can feel within our class. Throughout the class period, I wondered why we were starting off with pain, but then realized  pain needed to be identified  so we can grasp the meaning and description of pain physically, emotionally and mentally

. Throughout the reading assignments I understood pain was important throughout the readings. Pain can be described through anything from how we are feeling and Ms. Dickenson makes pain into an object. . Pain is shown to be important within medicine and literature, however sometimes we must read between the lines.

David Small, Stitches: A Memoir, is a graphic novel that demonstrates the pain of a young boy, David and his family. My first thought, was why is our professor making us read a comic book. There are two things I learned while reading Stitches: A Memoir, one a medicine book can be graphic novel and two pain and suffer is shown in many different elements.  I was fascinated as this was he first time I read a graphic novel and one that was related to medicine and the interpretation of medicine is different when it is mostly in pictures. The picture helps the reader observe and feel the pain. Second is the pain being described in many elements of pain or suffering. The element of pain and suffering is displayed throughout the book which gave a different field of pain and suffering. I have enjoyed reading this graphic novel.  It was different and appealing to my interest in medicine. This book helped me visually observe and describe pain on so many levels. Pain is basically a universal language.

I have enjoyed my time in Literature in Medicine; it was a great and fun experience. All the reading assignments were challenging however, it was intriguing. Especially the two reading assignments of Pain by Emily Dickenson, and Stitches: A Memoir, because these readings helped me understand pain and the real world of medicine. Throughout the semester of Literature in Medicine, I learned that the generation of doctors are evolving from doctors who care for

themselves to doctors who  care for their patients. They are now trying their best to diagnosis patients and fix their patients. Literature in Medicine helps me have an insight into how the institution of   medicine has been evolving for the past generation. Also, this helped me understand pain is related to almost everything in medicine. I really enjoyed posting blogs that deals with literature in Medicine.

Thank you!
-Eva Mehta

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The Death of Ivan Ilych

The death of Ivan Ilych written by Leo Tolstoy is the reaction of a man and his friends to his suffering of death. Ivan Ilych a respected lawyer and jurist is dead. His colleagues make all the right decisions however they cannot help wondering how his death impacts within their careers choice. Everyone who knows him has led a life of total disregard for the feelings and  suffering of others. The characters driving force is to follow the rules of their society.  The way society perceives Ivan is that he demonstrates a good life and strives for perfection. Looking back over Ilych ‘s life, they see that Ivan did all the right things, he was helpful and responsible   in various social and profession games. He portrayed the proper amount of seriousness until he realized the gnawing pain in his side was mortality. The way Ilych’s attitude toward his life was the same way towards his death. He struggled through all the stages of grief denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance towards his friends and loved ones and realized all he had ignored to get ahead in life. Later the only thing that Ilych was facing was death then she realizes the true meaning of life that he reflecting on. Even though he was a capable, he showed himself as a good natured and social man, though strict in the fulfillment of what he considered his duty and considered the duties of those in authority. Ilych demonstrated that a son of a successful man, who held many positions in many department s while trying to make his father proud in sprit.

“In addition to the speculations aroused in each man’s mind about the transfers and likely job changes this death might occasion, the very fact of the death of a close acquaintance evoked in them all the usual feeling of relief that it was someone else, not they, who had died.” (ch.1, p.37)

“Ivan Ilyich’s life had been most simple and commonplace – and most horrible.” (ch.2, p.49)

“Neither as a boy nor as an adult had he been a toady, but from his earliest youth he had been drawn to people of high standing in society as a moth is to light; he had adopted their manners and views of life and had established friendly relations with them.” (ch.2, p.50)

“As for the rest, he tried to find enjoyment in family life, and, if he succeeded, was very grateful; but if he met with resistance or querulousness, he immediately withdrew into his separate, entrenched world of work and found pleasure there.” (ch.2, p.58)

“In actuality, it was like the homes of al people who are not really rich but who want to look rich, and therefore end up looking like one another.” (ch.3, p.66)

“The pleasures Ivan Ilyich derived from his work were those of pride; the pleasures he derived from society those of vanity; but it was genuine pleasure that he derived from playing whist.” (ch.3, p.70)

“After supper his friends went home, leaving Ivan Ilyich alone with the knowledge that his life had been poisoned and was poisoning the lives of others, and that far from diminishing, that poison was penetrating deeper and deeper into his entire being.” (ch.4, p.83)

“It seemed inconceivable to him that all men invariably had been condemned to suffer this awful horror.” (ch.5, p.89)

“As she was kissing him, he hated her with every inch of his being, and he had to restrain himself from pushing her away.” (ch.5, p.91)

“He went to h is study, lay down, and once again was left alone with It. Face to face with It, unable to do anything with It. Simply look at It and grow numb with horror.” (ch.6, p.97)

“Nothing did so much to poison the last days of Ivan Ilyich’s life as this falseness in himself and in those around him.” (ch.7, p.105)

“He cried about his helplessness, about his terrible loneliness, about the cruelty of people, about the cruelty of God, about the absence of God.” (ch. 9, p.118)

“Perhaps I did not live as I should have, but how can that be when I did everything one is supposed to do?” (ch.9, p.120)

“But if that is the case, and I am taking leave of life with the awareness that I squandered all I was given and have no possibility of rectifying matters – what then?” (ch.11, p.127)

“He felt that he was in agony because he was being shoved into that black hole, but even more because he was unable to get right into it. What prevented him from getting into it was theelief that his life had been a good one. This justification of his life held him fast, kept him from moving forward, and caused him more agony than anything else.” (ch.12, p.131)

“One hand fell on the boy’s head. The boy grasped it, pressed it to his lips, and began to cry. At that very moment Ivan Ilyich fell through and saw a light, and it was revealed to him that his life had not been what it should have but that he could still rectify the situation.” (ch.12, p.132)

“He searched for his accustomed fear of death and could not find it. Where was death?  What death? There was no fear because there was no death. Instead of death there was light.” (ch.12, p.133)

“Death is over. There is no more death.” (ch.12, p.134)

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Autobiography of a Face

Lucy Grealy tells a story like no other, she describes her experience through a different perspective of unbearable pain. That takes pain to a whole new level as loneliness, confusion, and questioning that bring the means from being lost to her family. Grealy did not show feelings of fear to her parents. She was afraid the future but  she knows that the present matters the most. Overall Grealy’s story tells about the fear of death with courage and anguish.

“I was accorded a certain amount of respect in my neighborhood, not only because I once jumped out of a second-story window, but also because I would kiss an old and particularly smelly neighborhood dog on the lips whenever asked. I was a tomboy par excellence.” (15)

“Or perhaps that knock set in motion a chain of physical events that created an opportunity for the cancer to grow which it might not otherwise have found. Sometimes it is as difficult to know what the past holds as it is to know the future, just as an answer to a riddle seems so obvious once it is revealed, it seems curious to me now that I passed through all those early moments with no idea of their weight.” (28)

“It wasn’t without a certain amount of shame that I took this kind of emotional comfort from surgery: after all, it was a bad thing to have and operation, wasn’t it? Was there something wrong with me that I should find such comfort in being taken care of so? Did it mean I liked having operation and thus that I deserved them?” (145)

“I decide that it was my very ugliness that allowed me to access to this other beauty. My face may have closed the door on love and beauty in their fleeting states, but didn’t my face also open up to perception I might otherwise be blind to” (150)

“Beauty, as defined by society at large, seemed to be only about who was best at looking like everyone else.” (178)

“It was true I hated it and saw it as the cause of my isolation, but I interpreted it as some kind of lesson. I had taught myself and reincarnation, how the soul pick its various lives with the intent of learning more and more about itself so that it may eventually break free of the cycle of karma. Why had my soul chosen this particular life, I ask myself; what was here to learn from a face as mine.” (180)

Favorite Quotes

“It was easily to slip back into my depression and blame my face for everything.” (127)
– I feel Grealy is showing her outlook towards her life and condition. She is constantly trying to look perfect, or strive toward perfection in everything she does  however, she always  gives up in the end. She blames her outlook on the appearance of her face and the condition of her life.

“It was ugly, so people were going to make fun of me: I thought it was their right to do so simply because I was so ugly, so I’d just better get used to it.” (145)
– This is a good example of Grealy as shows the low self-esteem Grealy had in school.  She says that she observes that people make fun of her, which makes her depressed about her face. Grealy complains to herself that she is ugly, an imperfect person and thinks that she will never be able to think of  herself as beautiful.

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Blind Eye Open Something New

Raymond Carver’s Cathedral is a short story, which introduces us to an insight on disabilities. This short story gives the original perspective on what it means to “see” and how the worldview impacts how we as humans view it. The short story is about a blind man. This blind man who is named Robert happens to have a wife who is deceased.

Near the middle of the story, we see that the characters are eating dinner and take sometime to engage in casual fun activities. The narrator turns on the television and a program is on about cathedrals. The narrator then begins to chat about the idea of a cathedral with the Robert, who has never ‘seen’ one, with his own eyes. The narrator convinces Robert to draw a picture of a cathedral with him guiding his hand so that he could experience it.  When the narrator and Robert draw it they do so by placing the narrators hand onto Roberts as a guide. He causes the narrator to completely alter his worldview by making him draw a cathedral with his eyes closed and then asking him what does he see. The ideal similarity between these two human beings, and their physical differences throughout is explored.  We see that Carver used various elements that demonstrate tone and symbolism. The theme left is devoid and makes us accept all members of society. Cathedrals represent harmony and peace, Carver exhibits this throughout the narrator and the blind man named Robert, as both draw hand on hand a Cathedral. This demonstrates that Robert can actually feel how a Cathedral looks like within his mind.

The imagery is almost entirely descriptive; this reflects the narrator’s tone as very literal, down-to-earth individual. He is no-nonsense and finds himself literally at a loss when attempting to describe the cathedral to Robert. One of the most powerful moments is  where his description that is not either of something physical within or outside of him until the very end when he says, regarding having eyes closed, I thought I’d keep them that way for a little longer. I thought it was something I ought to do.” (124) . By keeping the narrator’s eyes closed he is blocking one his most significant portals for sensory exploration and has to rely instead on guesswork and on faith. There is a similarity from a deaf person and a blind man, which is sensory. Where both have using their other senses than what they lost. The blind man Robert uses touch which is to feel sometimes which he would imagine in his mind. The deaf person would be using their eyes, where they have very good observation skills, more than a normal average human hearing being. When meeting a deaf person, and knowing American Sign Language, a hearing person must be good, and sign slow and respectful. It takes a while for a deaf person to use their voice. It takes a deaf person to feel very comfortable to use their voice. My deaf friend took a long while until I heard his voice. He asked how do I sound, I told him that it was perfect. For that moment I felt special that he used his voice for the first time ever in public. His voice was amazing and mind-blowing. I learned that it takes a while for a deaf and blind person to feel very comfortable out of their zone. It makes them feel happy as well as the other person feels very happy.

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A Small Good Thing.

Raymond Carver’s, A Small, Good Thing is a strong story about a patient trusting the doctor’s opinion. The plot revolves around misunderstandings about a birthday cake which was left and unpaid at the bakery by a mother after her son, Scotty, was involved in a hit and run accident on his birthday. Carver bases his story on the idea of failed communication between doctors and patients as well as the baker and his costumers. His interest is the dialogue between people who are not listening to each other. Carver builds misunderstandings and develops a series of nuisance from the baker to the family. In addition, the parent’s confusion at the hospital is also one example. Carver repeats trigger words such as “operate” to convey the stress and sense of disconnection.

“There were no pleasantries between them, just the minimum exchange of words, the necessary information ” (376).

“The child was in the hospital with a mild concussion and suffering from shock. There’d been vomiting, and his lungs taken in fluid which needed pumping out that afternoon” (378).

“We’ll know some more in a couple of hours, after the results of a few more test are in” (382).

“It’s not a coma yet, not exactly, the doctor said. I wouldn’t want to call it coma” (383).

“What’s that? Ann said. A Scan? she stood between this new doctor and the bed. I thought you’d already taken all your X-rays” (385).

“Dr. Francis came again that afternoon and examined the body once more and then left after telling them he was coming along and could wake up at any minute now” (386).

“Dr. Francis was shaken. I can’t tell you how badly I feel. I ‘m so very sorry, I can’t tell you” (396).

Dr. Francis asked to Scotty parent “Is there anything else I can do for the moment” (397).

“No, no, she said. I can’t leave hime here no. she heard herself say that and thought how unfair it was that the only word that came out were the sort of words used on TV shows” (397).

“My son’s dead, she said with a cold, even finality. He was hit by a car Monday morning. We’ve been with him until he died.” (403)

“I don’t have any children myself, so I can only imagine what you be feeling. All I can say to you now is that I’m sorry. Forgive me, if you can” (404).

“I hope you’ll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this” (404).

“They listened carefully. Although they were tired and in anguish, they listened to what the baker had to say. They nodded when the baker began to speak of loneliness, and of the sense of doubt and limitation that had come to him in his middle years” (405).

“They talked on into the early morning, the high pale cast of light in the windows, and they did not think of leaving” (405).

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Why Yellow

The Yellow Wallpaper has to be one of my ultimate favorite stories. It begins with a woman who struggles with depression after child birth, and her husband sticks her in a room. The husband thinks he knows what is best for his wife, which proves to be not true when his wife’s depression worsens. The narrator helps us understand the feeling of loneliness and getting very sick. Indeed, when a woman is going through depression she needs much more attention. I have been through that situation with a woman who had depression and suicidal thoughts and I see how she felt and looked at the husband abandoning her. Making it all by her lonesome is not the solution. The fictional husband had no caring for his wife at all and thus making the depression worse. My assumption is that John thinks that he can do whatever he wants with his wife and maybe can even control her sickness. The narrator begins observing the things within the yellow wallpaper that is in her room. The truth is she is hallucinates the things that surround her. At the end of the story she gets exhausted of the things she sees and takes down the yellow wallpaper. In my point of view, that the yellow wallpaper represents her husband because it is controlling her mind just like he tried to control her life.

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Doctor reaction

Today doctors have changed a lot in the eyes of society. Back in the day doctors had very little care for the patient’s reaction, the only thing that they cared was themselves and how they looked. There are some doctors who are very nice to their patients and there are some who are just rude, or even evil towards their patients. The Girl with a pimply Face is about a kind doctor who treats his patient who is a baby with a serious heart disease and a stomach bug.  Both were either long or short term issues. There is a kind doctor who is helping the mother with the baby patients “this my baby. You understand. She very sick. You good doctor” (50). This means that the doctor is very kind toward his patients. Today in society you see either doctors who want to make money and do not care about the patients or doctors who are a complete opposite. I volunteer at the North Shore hospital, and sometimes I see doctors who are very kind to their patients and sometimes try to give them a discount from their bill.  It is so sweet that doctors have a good heart and intention of caring the patients. Other times, when I see my doctor, it looks like my physician just wants the money and is not taking care of my body. As you can see doctors in today’s society can be either good doctors or bad mostly it all depends on luck.

In The Use of Forces, is about a young girl who has a virus in her throat. However, the little girl did not tell her parents about it. Back in the day, doctors would go to the patient’s house and diagnose and care for them there. In the story the doctor came to the house and got consent from the parents to use force on the child.  The doctor was attempting to diagnose the young child, however, the young child only sees that this is a mean doctor and he is trying to hurt her. In Microbiology, the way to diagnose a patient sometimes is by looking at the virus or its colonies on the petri plate. A Petri Plate is a hallow glass or plastic cylindrical lidded dish that biologists use to produce cultures of bacteria, cells or other microorganisms. The petri plate helps identify the kind of virus. One day, I and my partner were making a blood agar petri plate; basically we had to swab the cheek or throat to identify if we were sick. My lab partner and I were curious if my sore throat would have a virus colony on the blood agar. The results were a bit different the blood agar kept the bacteria cell colony and it was very big.

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The Interpreter

The definition of interpreter as it appears in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is as fallows: one who translates orally for parties conversing in different languages. Jhumpa Lahiri, states that Mr. Kapasi is a tour guide and a interrupter for a doctor. He meets with the Das family and gives them a tour of the Sun Temple that is located in India near Napel. Throughout the short story the wife of Das family and Mr. Kapasi have chemistry. Toward the end when the Das Family is leaving from the sun temple, the women brings out the brush and “the slip of paper with Mr. Kapasi’s address on it fluttered away in the wind” (Lahiri, 69).  This represents the slip of paper meaning that God does not want them to be in a relationship. Mrs. Das should stick to her commented relationship. During the tour Mr. Kapasi helps the Das Family bridge culture, interprets and brings worlds together. He brings the pain out to the surface from where most pain is hiding in isolation. A connection that can be made is that interpreter and translator are similar to doctors and medical staff. All three professions have to deal with people and with communication. Even though they are different they are still similar and can still help people in many different ways. The interpreter helps people interpret what you say and translate it to another person. A Translator is a person who translates a language or symbols into a common language. A doctor is a foreigner to others when he/she is talking in medical terms and that patient must have it understand so that the terms of  problem can be understood.

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Lorrie Moore, People like that are the only people here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk, summarized that her baby had kidney cancer, At first the mother thought it was her who got the cancer. The husband only thought about finical problems and told the mother, to take notes. The mother did not appreciate the medical staff because they were detached from the situation and using metaphors that the patient’s family did not understand. Throughout the stories the baby is healthy and does not get chemotherapy instead of surgery. In Benedictine university for invasive species, we were talking about the West Niles Virus (WNS) and how 1999 the CDC did not listen to the patients and their insistence that they got the virus due to the population of birds. It’s interesting how in 1999 CDC detached from WNS due to the birds and as of today, the CDC is putting a lot of care to the population of birds.

“A beginning, an end: there seems to be neither. the whole thing is like a cloud that just lands and everything inside it is full of rain” (212)

“Is it possible it was my kidney on the scan? I mean, I’ve never heard of a baby with a tumor, and , frankly, I was standing very close.” (213)

“Now her baby, for all these reasons-lack of motherly gratitude, motherly judgment, motherly proportion–will be taken away” (217)

“Take Notes, says the Husband, after coming straight home from work, midafternoon, hearing the news, and saying all the words out loud. ” (219)

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“Religion still implies AIDS is a punishment, meted out by unloving, unforgiving, and unimaginable God, intent with wrath” (Campo, 95).

AIDs is one big factor, it tries to fight the body and creates a war zone between the virus and the body. Rafael Campo who is a physician and poet, brings a good point between AIDs and religion. Campo compares and contrasts the two points. This means that Campo is making a similar statement that AIDS and God basically have a similar path. The first connection, is that doctors are like God and they are trying their best to heal their patients. They are trying to manipulate the expansion of human lives. The doctors job is to heal, the poet Campo’s job is to face death. Another connection, is that within religion God looks upon us, when a person does something wrong, people assume that God gave them a punishment toward the person. There are some patients that accept that God gave them AIDS because they have done something bad, which is considered as sin. The sin that the patients have done is unforgiveable and which is why God is punishing them with the AIDS virus.

Campo, R. (1996). What the body told. Durham: Duke University Press.