Sunday, April 26, 2009

Not Yet by Wayson Choy (2009)

A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying

From Amazon.ca: "Framed by Wayson Choy’s two brushes with death, Not Yet is an intimate and insightful study of one man’s reasons for living.

In 2001, Wayson Choy suffered a combined asthma-heart attack. As he lay in his hospital bed, slipping in and out of consciousness, his days punctuated by the beeps of the machines that were keeping him alive, Choy heard the voices of his ancestors warning him that without a wife, he would one day die alone. And yet through his ordeal Choy was never alone; men and women, young and old, from all cultures and ethnicities, stayed by Choy’s side until he was well. When his heart failed him a second time, four years later, it was the strength of his bonds with these people, forged through countless acts of kindness, that pulled Choy back to his life."

Wayson Choy is a beloved Canadian author. It's strange that he is not much read in the "States." Not Yet is a remarkable book that is one of the best illness narratives we have. It weaves cross-cultural themes into the narrative as well.

Publisher information: Not Yet

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lost Lullaby: Deborah Alecson 1995

By Deborah Golden Alecson
Published by University of California Press, 1995
ISBN 0520088700, 9780520088702 207 pages

From Google Books. "Lost Lullaby makes one think the unthinkable: how a loving parent can pray for the death of her child. It is Deborah Alecson's story of her daughter, Andrea, who was born after a full-term, uneventful pregnancy, weighing 7 pounds 11 ounces, perfectly formed and exquisitely featured. But an inexplicable accident at birth left her with massive and irreversible brain damage.
Told in a mother's voice, with a simplicity and directness that heighten the intensity of the drama that unfolds, Lost Lullaby reaffirms the human dimension of what is too often an abstract and purely theoretical discussion. During the two months that Andrea spent in the Neonatal ICU, Ms. Alecson spoke with lawyers, doctors, and ethicists in an effort to understand the legal, medical and ethical implications of her plight. She recounts those discussions and describes legal cases that have a direct bearing on her own situation. Her battle--both in coming to the agonizing decision to let her child die and in convincing the medical and legal establishments to respect that decision--will engender empathy for the plight of many families, and an awareness of the need to use medical technology with restraint. It is a must-read for everyone who cares about how we make life-and-death decisions on these new medical, legal, and moral frontiers."
This is an important book -- a must read. It is difficult and painful because it looks at issues that are usually glossed over. Can be obtained from abebooks.com DJE

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Body Broken by Lynne Greenberg (2009)

From Random House: "The Body Broken is a gorgeously told and intensely moving account of one woman’s extraordinary odyssey into a life of chronic pain–and of the unyielding resilience of the human spirit.

At age nineteen, Lynne Greenberg narrowly survived a devastating car crash. When her broken neck healed–or so everyone thought–her recovery was hailed as a medical miracle and she returned to normal life. Years later, she seemed to have it all: a loving husband, two wonderful children, a peaceful home, and a richly satisfying job as a tenured poetry professor. Then, one morning, this blissful fa├žade shattered–the pain in her neck returned in the most vicious way. A life with physical agony ensued.

Greenberg realized that she had been living for years on borrowed time. As she and her family navigated an increasingly complicated web of doctors and specialists, Greenberg taught herself to fight her own battles–against a medical system ill-equipped to handle patients with chronic pain, and against the emotional pitfalls of a newly restricted life. Drawing on her family’s support, her own indomitable spirit, and an intense connection to the poetry she taught, Greenberg found the strength to return to a productive and satisfying–if irrevocably changed–life. This deeply personal saga takes us to the heart of a family’s struggle to survive a crisis, and shows us how, at the most profound levels, such an odyssey affects a patient’s marriage, the ability to parent, family, work, and friendships.

The Body Broken is a powerful, lyrical story of one woman’s remarkable determination and breathtaking courage, as she puts mind over matter in the struggle to reclaim her life.

This is truly an important book. It is in the tradition of Susanna Kaysen's "The Camera My Mother Gave Me." "Body Broken" is literate, at times maddening, but an important opportunity for care givers to learn from an articulate patient. DJE