Monday, April 23, 2012

Hospital by Julie Salamon

After reading a lighthearted memoir by Tina Fey, I decided to take on a "heavy" memoir regarding the crisis in health care, particularly our hospitals.  Julie Salamon spent a year following interns, residents, fellows, internists, administrators, nurses, and patients at a hospital in Brooklyn.  She gained an eyeful and earful of what is right and wrong with the current state of the U.S. health care system.  Since I have been acquainted with this same familiarity through my own adventures with my dad's stem cell transplant and unusual ailments I have endured myself, I felt like, if given the same assignment, I probably would have written something even more scathing yet revealing.  There's nothing like spending a vast amount of time inside a major hospital to make you acutely aware of what is and is not important when it comes to being a human being in great need.

Initially, the author observes insanity in the hospital emergency room.  People waiting for hours to be seen, to have tests run, and then sometimes many more hours before they can arrive to a hospital room should they need to be admitted.  There is such diversity at this hospital that you see people from every walk of life and seemingly from every part of the globe.  The administration does make an effort to have staff that can speak any of the sixty-seven different languages the patients may speak.  Residents are fascinating in that they believe that if they can make it at this one hospital, given all its crisis, they can make it anywhere.  This particular hospital tries incessantly to reach out and participate in the local community.  They take pride in being a state-of-the-art local hospital, and not one funded by generous endowments such as the hospitals in Manhattan.  They adamantly want the local community to utilize this local hospital as opposed to going to a hospital in Manhattan.

Throughout the book the reader witnesses insurance companies reducing reimbursements for treatments, administrators trying to fund fields that have higher profit returns, doctors behaving badly with other doctors as well as nurses, egos colliding, patients who arrive severely ill and are illegals with no way of paying for hospital services, the hospital President often becoming manic about "teamwork", "cleanliness", "building a cancer center", and uniquely, "having the first born baby of each new year arrive at their hospital (which has never happened).  Her heart is in the right place, but sometimes she is so overwhelmed that she fails to recognize the good that is happening within the hospital and the successes of many staff members. 

You also witness moving moments such as when staff overwhelmingly turn out at a funeral for a fellow staffer's wife who dies of cancer; staffers calling their fellow colleagues when something unexpected and horrible has happened such as a cancer diagnosis or a horrible accident. The hosptial runs like a family with all the ups and downs, arguments and celebrations it entails.  There are fiercely dedicated doctors not just those that are stellar surgeons, but those who are dedicated to treating the whole person.  There is even a meeting of doctors, social workers, and residents called the biopsychosocial team that meet on a volunteer basis when they have a patient who has immense needs.  They pull their talents to determine how to best help the patient given their respective specialties.  It's moving subject matter and it's real. If you haven't had the privilege and some would say horror of witnessing our health care system up close and personal, you definitely should read this book and become enlightened because sooner or later we all become acquainted with the U.S. health care system, its good and bad, either because of our own health or the health of someone we love. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

This is an entertaining read as I expected no less from Tina Fey.  In it she discusses her life lessons as a teenager, a comedian, a writer, an author, and a producer/director.  I particularly loved her brief "Improv" lessons.  I was struck mostly by how much difficulty she encounters when trying to juggle motherhood and career, and the flak a female trying to do both can receive from other people.  I was also particularly interested in some of what I would describe as chauvinistic events she has endured coming up through the ranks as a comedian.  Amy Poehler knows how to handle these type of men admirably well according to Ms. Fey. 

Additionally, I was somewhat shocked to learn her parents are Republicans, and she was at first hesitant to tackle the role of Sarah Palin.  I think she nails the impression spot on.  She did have reservations about doing the Saturday Night Live episode along with Sarah Palin only because she thought a New York audience might be disapproving to Palin.  Once SNL added Alec Baldwin to the mix for the episode featuring Palin, all worked out well.  Definitely an insightful read for someone who wants to work in comedy, acting, or producing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Review: Still: Notes On A Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren f. Winner

When bad things happen to good people, particularly people who believe in God, a mid-faith crisis erupts.  You find yourself questioning God, your beliefs, your track record as a Christian, and just exactly where you are on your spiritual journey.  This is the crux of reflections from Lauren F. Winner's new book Still:  Notes On A Mid-Faith Crisis.  This is not your classic memoir in that it is not written as a chronological narrative, but short chapters with reflections on her spiritual journey after her mother dies and she separates from her husband.  One of these events is enough to rock a person's world, two really makes you take a step back and rethink everything.  She begins to question her commitment to her faith and the presence of God.  She wonders at times if God is hidden and she questions whether she is in fact living her faith or just going through the motions.  She wonders where the joyous time following her conversion to Christianity went and will the joyous moments ever return.  Here are some of the interesting life lessons I noted in reading about Ms. Winner's "middle" spiritual journey:

1)  It oftentimes occurs to Christians encountering a mid-faith crisis that maybe this is happening because they have sinned in some way.
2)  It is not God who is absent in a mid-faith crisis, but you who are absent.
3)  When change in our life is required, the literati among us turn to reading and books.
4)  Every decade we tend to remake ourselves and renew our identity.
5)  Sometimes the worst loneliness is not estrangement from the one you love, but the loneliness of the
routine transpiring of days.
6)  Evolving through our prayer life as humans can work like this:  in preschool you pray about God, rabbits, deer, the tangible, etc.; by the time you are seven years of age you define prayer as asking God for a need; as a middle-schooler you might define prayer as talking to God and asking for forgiveness; and as an adult you might discover that God is the author of your prayers.
7)  There is a real question as to whether anxiety can be inherited.
8)  One way to overcome anxiety is by taking a break from it for 15 minutes by praying.  After the 15 minutes is up, you can always go back to being anxious should you so choose.
9)  Oftentimes, our anxiety stems from being left alone in a situation we don't feel able to handle.
10)  Busyness can be disorienting; it can be like one of the seven deadly sins.  (This is why I do not use twitter),
11)  We can become too invested in how we feel about church and God while not invested enough in how we are serving God, church, and our neighbor.
12)  In stillness one can find God.
13)  Upon confirmation as a Christian, you agree that the stories/beliefs in the Bible are those with which you will forever wrestle.
14)  Stories with heroes laud their virtues and stories with saints encountering failure demonstrates God's forgiveness.
15)  The journey to God is like walking through a castle.  The first couple rooms are basic, ornate enough and as you wind your way to the center of the castle, it becomes more light-filled and awe-inspiring.

Ms. Winner says at the conclusion of this book that she wrote it to make sense of her spiritual life after a crisis.  She also studies and teaches at Duke Divinity School so it stands to reason this would be a learning experience she would wish to document.  Personally, I liked her book Girl Meets God better than this book, but only because it flows in more of a narrative format whereas the book Still is written as short, sometimes choppy chapters that are reflections on how her spiritual life is changing.  It stands to reason that I would agree with Ms. Winner that keeping a journal during major life crisis proves cathartic so I will be immensely happy when a publisher or agent or both discover my memoir involving a family encountering crisis and the
subtle and life-changing lessons learned from our dramatic, yet meaningful year.