The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘doctors’

Terra Incognita

March 13, 2014 | by

Remembering Sherwin Nuland, the author of How We Die, who died last week.

THUMB_NULAND

Photo: Yale.edu

I attended the Yale School of Medicine when Shep Nuland taught there, and despite our both being surgeons, I know him best in my capacity as a reader. I don’t recall when I first read How We Die—I was just finishing high school when it came out—but I do know that few books I had read so directly and wholly addressed that fundamental fact of existence: all organisms, whether goldfish or grandchild, die. His description of his grandmother’s illness showed me how the personal, medical, and spiritual all intermingled. As a child, Nuland would play a game in which he indented her skin to see how long it took to resume its shape—a part of the aging process that, along with her newfound shortness of breath, showed her “gradual slide into congestive heart failure … the significant decline in the amount of oxygen that aged blood is capable of taking up from the aged tissues of the aged lung.”

But “what was most evident,” he continued, “was the slow drawing away from life… By the time Bubbeh stopped praying, she had stopped virtually everything else as well.” With her fatal stroke, Shep Nuland remembers Browne’s Religio Medici: “With what strife and pains we come into the world we know not, but ’tis commonly no easy matter to get out of it.” Read More »

3 COMMENTS

West Side Story

January 16, 2014 | by

psychiatry-Head

Image: Design of Signage

I like my psychiatrist, but I often find that occupying fifty minutes with an account of my tedious life feels like a high price to pay for responsible prescription.

“Do you try to make him laugh?” my dad asked, when he picked me up from my first-ever appointment. “Do you want to be his favorite patient?” (My dad visited a therapist briefly in the 1970s, hence his expertise.) I explained loftily that this was a medical situation and not like that at all, and that the doctor had been amazed that with my family history I had never been treated before. Then I admitted that yes, of course I wanted to be his favorite.

“When I saw my guy,” said my dad, “I sang to him.”

And he began to sing, very beautifully, to the tune of the Love Story theme,

Dog food is the king
I wish it weren’t but I can’t do anything
It’s so damn good it even makes the sparrows sing
And grown men weep and angels cry.

There was a moment of silence.

“What did he do?” I asked.

“He made me turn around so I wasn’t playing to his reaction all the time and had to actually engage.” Read More »

Comments Off