The other day a dear friend Rachel Hadas emailed to tell me that she “loves the intuitive wisdom, in cutting through Gordian Knots, that I demonstrate in my blogs.” I liked the sound of what she was saying but wanted to be sure that I understood the meaning of her words. So, as I often do, I looked up the definition of Gordian Knot. You see, Rachel is a renowned poet and professor of English Literature at Rutgers University and her metaphors are chosen with care.
A Medical Humanist's Notes
I recently discovered an Associated Press article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 2003. It was like reaching into a time capsule, which brought back so many memories of our co-founder the late Pat Barr and the early days of working as a medical humanist. Below is the article.
I have always been interested in definitions. What frequently comes to mind is what Aristotle said, “A definition is a phrase signifying a things essence.”
I was recently re-reading an email exchange with Dr. Skip Durning, who at the time was director of Hospitalist services at North Adams Regional Hospital. He wrote to me following a presentation to hospital staff that included our video “Voices from the Lived World of Illness.” After the viewing, the discussion with attendees highlighted the challenges of healthcare communication, especially when someone is seriously ill.
It’s common practice for doctors to document a family history of medical problems. This can be useful information to diagnose presenting symptoms and to identify health issues to which we could be genetically predisposed. So, with this theme in mind, I’m sharing an excerpt from a short story titled “Michagas,” which I wrote many years ago. For those who are unfamiliar with the meaning of the word, it describes a certain ‘craziness’ that is indigenous to Jews.
You never know what you find when digging through old files. In one of many piles was a copy of a lecture presented at Brown Medical School in 1998 titled “Medical Humanism in Practice.” The authors were cancer patient, Pat Barr; psychologist, Dr. Bernard Bandman; oncologist Dr. Letha Mills; and me, at the time serving as a patient advocate at the cancer center in Bennington.
As patients, we often don’t know what questions to ask, especially when it comes to inquiring about a serious medical condition.
Somehow myself survived the Night
And entered with the day
Henceforth, I take my living place.
It is a “heart to heart.” It is not with me, but with him—him being someone with knowledge of the disease, with credentials and whom she trusts.
There was a daily calendar on the wall emblazed with the words: “Today is” but there were no pages left.
We have all lost loved ones. Although not forgotten, the departed can recede to the back of our minds unless prompted by a memory such as a photo, song, written note or countless other things personal to the relationship.