Friday, February 24, 2017

On Living: Book Review

Published Oct. 25, 2016.
Kerry Egan draws on her experience as a hospital chaplain and a hospice chaplain to share stories about how illness and dying highlight people's values.

Some might expect her to offer sermons about the place of religion in people's lives. She doesn't do that.  Instead, she demonstrates the healing power of narrative.

Egan observes that chaplains do the following work:

"We listen to the stories that people believe have shaped their lives. We listen to the stories people choose to tell, and the meaning they make of those stories."

Those who are sick and dying often find great insight in telling the story of their life. Egan focuses on maintaining an attitude of love and compassionate listening as people work to make meaning of their lives by sharing stories.

People talk about their childhoods, their life's work, their families, and most often their desire to love and be loved.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Motherhood: Lost and Found: Book Review

Published December 4, 2013.
Ann Campanella experienced a decade of tension about her mother's failing health and her difficulties carrying a baby full term, which she chronicles in her memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found (2013).

As an award-winning poet, Campanella brings her creative abilities of insight and turn of phrase to her work.

She generously shares her tender feelings and insights about her mother and her pregnancies, which may serve as a great comfort to people facing one or both of these challenges.

At the start of her book, we watch as Campanella's mother grows increasingly distracted and emotional.

Her mother, Elizabeth (Betty) Williams, has trouble driving, keeping track of time, and remembering what city she's in. She even fails to recognize family members and grows more dependent on others to help her dress, eat, and use the bathroom.

But the changes to memory and bodily function are not the only symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease. Betty grows more emotional, alternating between being confused, angry, depressed, paranoid, and hurt.

In time, the doctor's describe Betty's symptoms as those consistent with Alzheimer's Disease.  While this does give the family some answers, a diagnosis of a disease with no cure doesn't remove the affiliated difficulties.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Tinkers: Book Review

Published January 1, 2009
Paul Harding won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010 for his novel Tinkers, a story about three generations of men from New England.

We meet George Crosby, a clock repair man.  From the start, the novel focuses on time, memory, and perspective.  George is suffering from delirium as a mature man in his last six weeks of life.  This leads to some shifting perceptions between past and present, reality and fantasy.

This is a book that I read slowly, wanting to live in the moments that he creates on the page.

Readers are next introduced to George's father, a salesman. Every fall and spring, Howard stocked up a wagon full of goods and traveled through back roads with his mule, selling to impoverished country people and making very little profit.

Howard is a poet at heart, but between the demands of providing for his family and the difficulty of dealing with his epilepsy, he lives a far less elegant life.

Friday, January 13, 2017

White Blood Cell Count: Biomarker of Health

Photo by keepingtime_ca.

Most people know that having a high white blood cell count is most likely a sign that the body is fighting an infection.

Also, having a low white blood cell count can be a sign of a problem.

White blood cells play a central role in the body's immune system. These cells constitute about 1% of human blood. They are small, but they are mighty.

Until doing research for this post, I had no idea what values constituted a healthy range for white blood cell count (WBC).

Depending on the source, healthy ranges for WBC are listed somewhere between 4,000 to 5,000 per microlitre on the low end or normal and between 10,000 and 11,000 per microlitre on the high end of normal. 

This post is part of a series on biomarkers of health and longevity.