Archive for the ‘ Medical ’ Category

The Case of Anna H.

The New Yorker

This is one of Oliver Sacks latest latest writings. He has been a prolific writer, one of that strange British breed – the Doctor who writes about his medical practice.

When he writes about his life, I am painfully reminded of the cultural limitations of my own.

All I can do is point you to his.

Beth Was a Part of Me

I must tell you something about my personal history – that also includes my family’s history, and my family’s church. They were all mixed in together.

I will start with my family’s church, the RLDS church, that for my parent’s generation was their whole world. My family lived in a small town on the Mississippi River, in Illinois – but close to Iowa and Missouri. As Midwestern a location as you could get – but they were nothing special for their time – too religious perhaps, but nothing exceptional.

But they knew a Blumenschein family that was exceptional  The father was a doctor, and they ran a medical mission in Honduras to provide medical services for the poor. Awesome!

But the father died, and his wife and children came back to the States. Their oldest daughter, Beth, lived with my family when she went to high school. She was the same age as my youngest sister. I was nine years older, had left the family, and only came home occasionally. Beth and I became sexually intimate – we didn’t have sex, but we got as close to it as we could.

Then we parted ways – she went to college in Iowa, and then in France. I worked for the military in the Cold War. Beth, however, had set her eyes on me, and we started living together in NYC. And then got married, in 1965.

It immediately became obvious, in retrospect – that Beth had severe mental problems. But I overlooked these at the time, and figured I could live with them.

Beth insisted that we move to California – and when she insisted, I had no choice in the matter. In California, her mental situation worsened – and in Santa Barbara, she had a complete breakdown – and was committed to the County Hospital. People sometimes ask me what her diagnosis was – it was schizophrenia – but that diagnosis was worthless. Whatever it was – she ordered me out of her life, and we got a divorce.

She remained in Los Angeles – and I went to a new job in Denver. Two years later, she killed herself. And it took me twenty years to get over her death!

I thought perhaps this was proof that I loved her – but like many marriages, this was not the case. There was some love, but not very much. We had too many problems.

Why did her death have such an impact on me? I have to say, I don’t really know! But it did have an impact, and it took the services of an organization in San Jose, California – who concentrated on Living with Dying, for me to recover.

Mothers in Prison

NY Times

So if we want to reduce female incarceration, we have a solution here in Tulsa that will also reduce crime and pay for itself.

I know some of you are glaring at this article and thinking: It’s their own fault. If they don’t want to go to prison, they shouldn’t commit crimes!

That scorn derives partly from a misunderstanding of drug abuse, which is a central reason for mass female incarceration in America (and a major reason for mass incarceration of men as well, although to a lesser degree). As Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the surgeon general, noted in releasing a major report this month: “It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness.” In short, we should think of drugs not primarily through the criminal justice lens but as a public health crisis.

I have a niece (the daughter of my youngest sister) who also has drug problems – and a variety of other problems. She acquired them from her dysfunctional family – her mother’s first son (her uncle) got his 12-year old girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of high school. She stole her Father’s truck, and he turned her in, and the courts forced her to go through a drug rehab program. Which solved that problem – but she has since moved on to many others.

Defective Desire

I’m sure everyone agrees that there is such thing as defective desire. And that this is one of the problems with our defective world. It is messed up, because we want the wrong things. Things that are not good for us.

Taking this a step further, however – is difficult – if not impossible. Our minds will agree that something is badly wrong – but refuse to consider what that might be. Or, even worse – will insist that nothing really bad is going on at all!

To put this another way – we have lost our minds – and don’t want them back.

That last sentence, that came to me as I was struggling to compose my thoughts – strikes me as original and worthwhile. We have lost our minds. Perhaps that is one thought that will penetrate the armor of our defenses.

Or perhaps I am deluding myself again – once the mind is gone, it seldom comes back. It fled out of terror, and once it experiences that – it never forgets. All we can do is ask ourselves – what was it so scared of? And the answer is easy – of being killed!

I saw this once, for myself – the sheer terror of the office environment. I was married, and working for the Army, at making its nuclear weapons (it was trying to catch up to the Air Force). We thought it would be nice if my wife had a job also.

So I got her one, working for the same place. One the first day of her work there, I got an emergency call “Come and get your wife, she is tearing up the office!” And sure enough, she had felt what was going on there – and had freaked out.

I didn’t know what was going on, and took her to a doctor, who freaked out also – and gave her a shot that knocked her out. This was my introduction to mental illness – and I would get many more. Until, five years later, she finally had a complete mental collapse, and ordered me out of her life. And then, a few years later – killed herself.

No one knew what was going on – and no one would know. The problem was too big for them to comprehend. Only now, thirty years later, living in Costa Rica – I understand.

Don’t bother to ask me what I understand – it’s too simple to explain.

FDR’s Last Days

NY Review – The Heights of Charm

This is a shocker – one of the many, many things Americans should know about, but will strongly resist knowing. Self-deception is native to the human race – but Americans have perfected it to an art. With FDR as one of its leading proponents.

Here is a quote about the selection of a vice-president:

The choice turned out to be Harry Truman, of course, but the how and why of the Truman selection has always been a bit of a mystery. Books have been written about it and there are so many variations and contradictions that a precisely accurate account is unlikely ever to be had.

This reflects Roosevelt’s preferred way of operating. He liked to promote confusion, uncertainty, and misunderstanding among colleagues and friends. It was his way of “keeping his options open,” a Washington phrase that means never letting anyone know what you are going to do until you have done it. Conforming to this principle, Wallace’s demise was never announced. Wallace himself did not grasp the bad news until the nominating convention met weeks later. Political news like this was spread soundlessly in the subtle gestures and attitudes that were the political brotherhood’s silent language.

Roosevelt’s doctors get roasted also. They knew he was a dying man. But this news was suppressed – just as the news about Hillary’s pneumonia recently. We like to think our political leaders will live forever.

My father also had heart disease in the Sixties – but it was never diagnosed, or treated. It was considered a disease too shameful to be discussed.

Our bodies and our minds are not closely connected.

Life in a One of Al Capone’s Brothels

When Al Capone and his older brother Ralph started in business in Chicago in 1921, they first ran a couple of mid-level whorehouses. Al personally asked a young man, named Irle Waller, to inspect his wares:

Six or seven girls about twenty years old, in flimsy undergarments called “chemises” or “Teddy Bears” in those days. Oh yes, also high-heeled pumps, usually black patent leather, to enhance them sexually. Some even had fancy extra curls attached to their coiffures. All of this for two dollars, and if and when you chose a girl she led you to a small cubicle. . . . Each cubicle contained a very small bed— with linen clean to dirty, depending on when you arrived. There was a table with a cheap bowl and pitcher of water, a towel, a bar of soap, and a small twenty-five watt electric bulb hanging from a cord in the air. She would ask you did you want the first-class job, which was three dollars, or the two-dollar “trick,” also how about venereal protection with a twenty-five cent rubber. When you finished, she would bring out a small coin container for any extra gratuity you might wish to deposit for her alone. Of this two dollars, she received one dollar, and then a ten-cent deduction was made for “protection” against raids and for bail and legal service.

Bergreen, Laurence. Capone: The Man and the Era (Kindle Location 1535). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.


My Brain and My Colon

The nervous system and the digestive system of all vertebrates operate independently of each other.

The digestive system (which is very complicated) has a mind of its own – and mixing it with the brain’s mind would have been a disaster.

The final organ of the digestive system is the Colon – which houses immense numbers of micro-organisms that feast on the remains of our food. This is a sensitive organ, that is intimately aware of the emotional state of the rest of the body. If the body is upset, it is upset. If it gets sick (from cancer, perhaps) the whole body gets sick – very sick.

In ancient times, the entrails of birds were carefully examined, as they contained messages from the gods. Birds, since they could fly, communicated between Heaven and Earth – and Christian angels still have wings for this reason. These people also paid careful attention to their own internal organs – and realized they had a huge effect on the rest of them. They were gut-oriented.

One of the crises of our time is the loss of this orientation. In many ways, our guts are smarter than our brains – because they are more aware.

This is the right place to bring up the Computer – and consider its effect on us.

I am a Computer enthusiast, and am downloading the Android Studio so I can play with it – as I write this. But I am continually amazed – by how ignorant people are about this new force in their lives. I will now state the obvious:

The Computer has no body.

Only people have bodies – the result of millions of years of evolution – that produced the human mind – a very imperfect creation. But capable of great creativity – when it is working right.

We should be using the Computer very carefully – keeping in mind what it is, and what we are. But we have not – we have identified with it (in the form of the Smartphone) – and abandoned our human self – that has all our smarts.

The Computer is not nearly as smart.