Confronting Long-term Fatal Illness: Patient and Kin Perspectives

by krm | Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Discussions about death and dying today tend to focus on do not resuscitate orders and withholding or withdrawing life support technologies. My book takes a very different approach. After reading 105 memoirs by family members of people who died from chronic illness, I realized that dying today is often an extremely protracted process, not only because new technologies can extend a person’s final days or weeks, but even more because many people live for years with one or more terminal conditions. In most of the memoirs I read, issues about treatment at the very end of life appeared relatively minor when considered within the entire sweep of a long-term fatal disease. I thus focus on the common experience of learning the diagnosis, grappling with the decision whether to enroll in a clinical trial, acknowledging the limits of medicine, receiving care at home and in health care institutions, and, finally, obtaining palliative care.

Several memoirs questioned the exalted value increasingly assigned to the acceptance of mortality. Critics of aggressive, high-intensity services at the end of life often stress the importance of acceptance. They note that people who acknowledge the inevitability of death are less likely to insist on expensive and...Read More

Five Essentials for Surgical Care During Conflict & Disaster

by krm | Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 6:00 AM

With numerous ongoing conflicts and disasters occurring around the world, the work of surgical humanitarians is never ending. To understand the context and prepare to provide surgical care under such conditions, it is essential to know the following:

Learn how to do a C-section

Labor ward in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo courtesy Nick Czernkovich

Most people are surprised to learn that C-sections are the most common surgical procedure performed both during conflicts and after a disaster. A study using Doctors Without Borders/Medecins sans Frontiers data highlighted this issue and documented that of more than 90,000 procedures performed in over 20 countries, more than 25% were C-sections. The ability to do this procedure and provide maternal health in general is a key point when planning humanitarian interventions or working as a surgical humanitarian.

To learn how to do C-sections and treat other common surgical problems in low-resource settings, surgeons and other health can professionals can take an “International Humanitarian Aid Skills Course” run each year at Stanford University.

Become a surgical MacGyver and know...Read More

A Few Words Apropos of the Pamphlet The Confessions of Nat Turner

by krm | Monday, February 20, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Nat Turner realized at some point during his nine weeks and four days in hiding that what he might say if taken alive would be interesting to the public. In August of 1831, he had led the bloody uprising by forty identifiable slaves in Southampton County, Virginia, and had become the most sought-after fugitive of his time, a figure of legend. No longer an actor, he was now a narrator. He prepared a confession.

He surrendered at noon on 30 October, and for the next day and a half, in public, he rehearsed. Within two hours he was speaking, under guard, to a crowd of one hundred at a nearby plantation. The next day he held forth for nearly two hours in front of magistrates at the courthouse in Jerusalem. He made further remarks to a gathering at the jail. Finally, in his cell, during the first three days of November (while awaiting trial and execution), he dictated a finished statement to Thomas R. Gray, a young attorney of the town. (Poor Gray has suffered odium and neglect for his trouble; he was characterized wrongly in the 1967 novel by William Styron and ignored entirely in the 2016 film...Read More

I Think of You When I See Roadkill

by krm | Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 6:00 AM

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that from one of my students, I’d be a rich man. Most people hearing that would be downright offended, and understandably so. To 99 out of 100 people it would be an insult. To me, however, it’s like music to my ears. It means a student got the full experience in my “Animal Form and Function” course where they were forced to dissect a carcass, feed it to flesh-eating beetles, and rebuild the remains. Some do it well. They get A’s. Others produce monstrosities of unknown origin with hints of mythical creatures. They don’t get A’s. But both populations still tell me they think of me when they see roadkill.

I wrote The Skeleton Revealed for a couple reasons. First, I’ve been fascinated by bones, especially dinosaur bones, since I was a kid. And, like most little boys with dinosaur toys around their bedroom, bringing them back to life and guessing how they’d act consumed hours of my life. How many times have you seen a young child pick-up a dinosaur toy and say, “RARRR!”? Unfortunately, while we think we know how dinosaurs communicated, we’ll...Read More

Celebrating All Kinds of Children

by bjs | Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 6:00 AM

The final 2016 issue of Children's Literature Association Quarterly was a special issue on African American Children’s Literature and Genre. Sara Austin (SA), a PhD candidate in English at the University of Connecticut, and Karen Chandler (KC), an associate professor of English at the University of Louisville, served as guest editors. The pair joined us for a Q&A to talk about the issue and the field of African American children's literature.

How did this special issue come about?

KC: Sara approached me about working with her on the special issue, and so maybe she can speak about what initially motivated her to propose a special issue on African American children’s and young adult literature. I will say I was drawn to the project because I have been greatly influenced by the earlier special issue in African American Review on African American children’s literature.

SA: I was working on an article about Virginia Hamilton and talking to Arnold Adoff about life in New York before Zeely was published. While researching the article, I noticed how little scholarship there was on...Read More