Category Archives: books, literature, arts

True health stories-3 medical memoirs that share the HEART of health

I read lots of books for my own pleasure and to review for this blog. Although health/medicine can be a genre in itself, many different types of books and media can illustrate medical science.

Some are fiction including drama, comedy, and often science fiction. One I have reviewed here is

Say Goodbye for Now.

SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW- A Novel
SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Most however are non-fiction. One in this category that I reviewed relates medical history.

Pandemic by Sonia Shah
PANDEMIC BY SONIA SHAH

Pandemic

Medical writers often explain medical conditions, offer information on treatment options, give advice, and encourage healthy habits. One of these is

Mind Over Meds

MIND OVER MEDS- book cover
MIND OVER MEDS BY ANDREW WEIL, MD

But as helpful and interesting as these are, I think the best medical books are those about real people who face real health challenges that are often life changing or even life threatening. There is nothing like experiencing a serious illness or injury to make you an expert about it.

And when the person with the problem writes or tells the story, we don’t just learn about it, we feel the emotions it provokes also.

Share your story

I have reviewed several of these “medical memoirs” here and will likely continue to do so. In a way, we are all living our own health journeys and many of you could offer reflections on how you and your family deal with your unique medical challenges.

If you are willing to share the perspectives you have gained through a health issue or medical experience, contact me; I would love to read it, and maybe share it here with my other readers. Your remarks may remain anonymous if you prefer.

Explore these “medical memoirs” with me.

The Best of Us

A Memoir

by Joyce Maynard

Ms. Maynard’s story opened with a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers. Equally sad was her telling of a complicated  and ultimately failed adoption attempt.

Finally she and we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As Ms. Maynard  writes,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed. You may read an excerpt at this link

The Best of Us-Chapter 1

Tears of Salt

A Doctor’s Story

by Pietro Bartolo; Lidia Tilotta

Dr. Pietro Bartolo practices medicine on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, known for its friendly people, sunny skies, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters famous for fishing, seems an idyllic place to live, work, and visit.

But for the past 20 years, Dr.Bartolo has cared for not just residents and tourists, but for hundreds of refugees- people who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean from northern Africa, fleeing poverty and political unrest. The lucky ones land on shore injured and sick. The unlucky ones wash ashore dead, having died en route or drowning after falling from a capsized or wrecked boat, sometimes only a few feet from shore.

In this memoir, Dr. Bartolo shares the stories of many of these people, giving them the names and faces that we don’t see watching news stories about the refugee crisis. He also shares his own life story of growing up on the island, leaving for medical school, and returning to raise a family and to practice medicine.

Dr. Bartolo’s story was also told in the documentary film FIRE AT SEA

He never expected to become the front-line help for hundreds of desperate people. With no specific training on how to manage an avalanche of desperate, sick, and injured refugees, and with little resources, he manages to put together a system for triaging, evaluating, and treating these people, then sending them on for more advanced medical care or to immigration centers in Europe.

For the less fortunate, he serves as medical examiner, to determine the cause of death for those who do not make it to Lampedusa alive; sometimes taking body parts to extract DNA to identify them, so families can be notified. He states he has never grown comfortable to this aspect of his job.

As a physician myself, I marvel at Dr. Bartolo’s caring and commitment to people who will never be able to repay him for his sacrifice. He approaches his work as a mission of mercy, and treats every person with the utmost respect, no matter their circumstance. Some of the people he treats become almost like family; he has even tried to adopt a couple of orphaned children but cannot due to legalities.

Dr. Bartolo’s story reads like a conversation. I think you will like him, and admire him for his dedication and selfless service.  His life should encourage all of us to consider what we can each do to lessen someone else’s suffering.

Follow this link to my review of

Love conquers fear-a memoir of hope

The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness and Peace

I received a free digital or paper copy of these books in return for posting a frank review on my blog and/or social media.

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explore the HEART of health with me

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . And please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page.

Please follow me on social media (links in the side bar). I look forward to sharing more information and inspiration to transform your health journey.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Fasting for the body and the soul

Lent -a  season of the Christian church year

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter Sunday.

Observed by Catholic , Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, (although the dates may differ) Lent is a time of spiritual reflection, contemplation, renewal,  and commitment.

Christians accomplish this in various ways such as special religious services, readings, music, prayer and meditation,  and service.

But probably the best known and observed is the practice of fasting.

people holding lit candles in the dark

What is fasting?

Simply put, fasting means to refrain from  foods and/or drink either partially or completely, for a specified time periods.  Religions other than Christianity also practice some form of fasting.

Traditionally, one  observed Lent by avoiding certain types of food (particularly meat, eggs, and milk products).  In some traditions, partial fasts were observed where participants would eat only one meal on certain days. Another way to fast is to avoid all food for a specified time frame, usually one day.

Many who observe Lent today are not as strict.  Often they choose to abstain from a particular food or particular behavior such as television or social media during Lent.

The purpose of fasting during Lent  is to refrain from something to redirect the time and energy  on our relationship to God.

man praying on holy bible in the morning

Medical fasting

You may be more familiar with fasting for medical reasons.

We physicians frequently ask patients to fast for 8-12 hours prior to performing certain blood tests. The meaning of the result may be different depending on how long ago the patient had eaten. This is the case when we test for diabetes (sugar or glucose) and hyperlipidemia ( cholesterol and triglyceride).

Another common time for medical fasting is prior to surgery or procedures, especially those done under general anesthesia. Many people become nauseated at this time and may throw up or regurgitate stomach contents. If these get sucked down into the lungs it can cause respiratory distress and lead to pneumonia, both serious complications of surgery. Having the stomach empty of food and liquid can minimize this risk .

There is evidence now that intermittent fasting may aid in weight loss. Dr. Monique Tello discusses intermittent fasting for the Harvard Health Blog at this link.

Intermittent fasting: Surprising update

ashes in the shape of a cross

40 days of sorrow

The 40 days of Lent are also a time of grief.

This tradition begins with the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Ashes are put on believers’ foreheads during religious services as a sign of repentance.

The practice of putting ashes on one’s head is an ancient sign of mourning that was often done at funerals or similarly sorrowful occasions.  In this case, the ashes represent sorrow over our sins and the pain and death caused by sin.

two women sitting on a rug with open books

Whether you formally observe Lent or not, we may consider this as a time to slow down, quiet the noise in our lives, open our hearts, and listen for new inspiration for using our gifts to create new ways to serve others.

“For even the Son of Man  (Jesus ) came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45 NLT
New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

40 Days of Decrease

Last year I experienced Lent with this devotional book by Alicia Britt Chole and I recommend it to help you observe a spiritually meaningful “fast” during Lent.

(Please note this is an affiliate link, a link which will help support this blog with a commission when a purchase is made.)


Every day offers a meaningful consideration of Jesus’ journey and then invites readers into a daily fast of heart-clutter, the stuff that sticks to our souls and weighs us down. 

Amazon

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me.

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I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . And please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page.

sharing faith, hope, and love with you

                              Dr. Aletha