Demystifying Medicine One Week at a Time

Category: narrative (page 5 of 14)

Radio Days

We here at GlassHospital Media have just completed Season 2 of the public radio program “Medical Matters,” the show about Health Care and the Human Condition.

It’s a limited series of 4 episodes. You can stream them anytime from the show’s webpage, or there’s a convenient link at the top of this page with an index of the episodes.Anne_Hallward_0

One of the standouts of this 2nd season was an interview with Dr. Anne Hallward, a Maine-based psychiatrist who has taken to the airwaves herself in an effort to ease suffering by covering “subjects we would struggle with less if we could talk about them more.” Her program, “Safe Space Radio” is now in it’s seventh season. It’s well worth a listen.

Hallward is a marvelous interviewer, and the name of the show says what it provides—a haven for people to talk about things that shame them: things like medical illnesses, psychiatric conditions, caregiving for loved ones with said issues, or relationship difficulties. Bringing shame out of the shadows is empowering for afflicted individuals; really, though, it is for all of us. She’s on to something here.

Our interview with Hallward was the first time she’d had the mic turned around on her. Her vision of where this show will go is inspiring—a radio program in pursuit of social justice. To understand it better, give it a listen.

Contagion of Yesteryear

Ebola seems to have taken up a significant portion of the news stream as of late.


NPR–>Kevin Frayer/AP

It’s understandable, given the breadth of the epidemic (largest ever), the fact that it’s hit our shores, and that it’s so frightening: hemorrhage! death!

I wrote a first-person account of the time I was asked to evaluate someone for SARS, a 2002-2003 novel disease outbreak that originated in China and spread quickly to the West (in the end, only 27 U.S cases and no deaths; in Canada, 251 cases and 44 deaths).

SARS is a descriptive name: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. We subsequently learned that it’s caused by a corona virus and that it’s spread by contact and respiratory droplets.

The outbreak died down as quickly as it flared up, and it’s nary been heard from since.

Here’s the concluding graf from the story–as true for Ebola as it was for SARS:

Today’s Ebola crisis makes clear what the many of us were slow to accept in 2003. It takes clear thinking, painstaking preparation, flawless execution and clear communication to protect the public health.

We can only hope that Ebola recedes and becomes a distant memory, also.

A Brief Chat with Scott Simon

I wrote a new piece for Shots, the NPR health blog. In an especially nice turn, the piece was “picked up” for a discussion on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. I had the chance to answer some questions from Scott Simon, longtime host of the program and one of my favorite radio broadcasters.

simon_mother_originalSimon is well-known for many reasons, but one of the most endearing things about him is the period when he sent numerous tweets from a Chicago ICU next to what turned out to be his mother’s deathbed. His tweets moved millions of us. [It turns out those tweets will now be used as narrative thread for a new memoir about his mother.]

I would’ve liked to tell Simon about how his tweeting impacted me, but this being national radio, we had to focus on the matter at hand, and I didn’t get the chance. Still, it was a thrill for me. Our conversation was whittled down to less than three minutes, and you can stream the audio anytime as it’s now permalinked to the written piece.

Give it a read and a listen. Hope you it makes you think.

Post by NPR.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

From the gift that keeps on giving section, GlassHospital offers this book recommendation:

chastI ordered Roz Chast‘s latest, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” for my wife, knowing that I was keen to read it.

I’ve always enjoyed Chast’s drawings in the New Yorker, and the topic of her aging parents seemed to offer something both universal and ripe for humor. When the package arrived, my wife seemed skeptical. But when I couldn’t get the book away from her, I knew we were on to something. After she finished it, I devoured it quickly.

The book is a graphic memoir. It tells the tales of her aging parents, who very much age in place—the place where Chast grew up in Brooklyn. Just going back there fills Chast with dread from the smells and feelings of her awkward youth and challenging relationships, especially with her mother.

Chast’s parents both live well into their 90s, with the attendant issues and frailties that come with old age. Chast makes no secret of her anxieties, in general or about aging, and what’s great is that she is able to poke fun at herself and see the humor (often gallows-type) in difficult family and health situations.

[Here is a superb interview of Chast from earlier this year when the book came out.]

Whether or not you have an aging parent, this is a book I highly recommend.

Another Legacy of Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert became a larger-than-life celebrity figure though his movie criticism (first to win a Pulitzer), his TV show(s), and finally, his cancer.

His memoir, “Life Itself,” is highly acclaimed, and was turned into a documentary that is now playing in selected theaters.

roger-ebert1The movie was initially made to feature Ebert’s life and illness. But throughout the making of the film, Ebert’s health began to get worse, and he soon died.

He participated in the making of the film right up until his death. Both he and his wife Chaz gave the filmmaker intimate access to their lives.

What makes the movie so special, in addition to learning about Ebert’s career, are the stories of his battle with alcohol addiction and his cancer, treatment and death.

I’ve never before seen a real film subject in such detail with his lower jaw removed, where his mouth is basically a flap of skin—it was that way for the last several years of his life. He could neither speak, nor eat or drink–ironic for a man known for his voracious appetites and weight.

The film shows him on two occasions being “suctioned,” where a reparatory tech uses a long probe to aspirate mucous from his windpipe. Again—I’ve never seen something so real and raw in a film. It’s unsparing. But it’s deeply moving. Throughout his illness, rather than becoming maudlin, Ebert continued writing, blogging and reviewing films all throughout his illness, right up until his death. No matter your opinion of him, his courage and perseverance in the face of serious illness and his impending death is something to behold.

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