Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum
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Drawing on his experiences as a surgeon, ER specialist, and family physician, Francis blends stories from the clinic with episodes from medical history, philosophy, and literature to describe the body in sickness and in health, in life and in death. When assessing a young woman with paralysis of the face, Francis reflects on the age-old difficulty artists have had in capturing human expression. A veteran of the war in Iraq suffers a shoulder injury that Homer first described three millennia ago in the Iliad. And when a gardener pricks her finger on a dirty rose thorn, her case of bacterial blood poisoning brings to mind the comatose sleeping beauties in the fairy tales we learn as children.
At its heart, Adventures in Human Being is a meditation on what it means to be human. Poetic, eloquent, and profoundly perceptive, this book will transform the way you view your body.
“seagull” from a “musical” murmur, recognize the grate of mitral regurgitation from the trill of aortic stenosis. There was something comforting in listening to the gurgle of blood as I worked. I wondered if it recalled the sound of the sea, or hearing a storm outside while wrapped up warm, but the sounds were too rhythmic for that. Perhaps it’s the womb, I thought, a deep memory of my mother’s pulse. It is the episodic squeezing of our heart, the pressure difference between systole and
Made to die then jerked back to the world.” Once the anesthetics and morphine had drained from his bloodstream he was left with a pain that ripped through his sternum whenever he moved: raw bone grating on bone. When that began to ease, a paralyzing darkness began to settle over his mood: “Over the pain, a blackness rose and swelled; / ‘pump-head’ is what some call it / – debris from the bypass machine / migrating to the brain.” No one knows why some individuals experience “pump-head”: a
you?” “Just checking you’re not a concert pianist.” “I fell through a window,” he says and looks away, though the nurses have already told me another story. When the paramedics arrived at his house there was a woman sobbing in the corner, who told them that he’d been about to punch her but punched a door instead. The window panels of the door shattered badly, and I wonder if he has fractured the bones of his hand in the punch. As I press on the forearm I lift his hand and glance at his
submitted to a gallery, or projected at night onto the hospital building. I pictured it for a moment hung in MoMA or the Tate Modern, protected by glass and cordoned by rope. I dictated a letter for the surgeons, and a porter came down to take Mr. Duletto up to their ward. “Surgical?” the porter asked, and I pointed to the cubicle. He pulled the gurney out into the corridor, and Mr. Duletto lifted a hand to wave as he headed toward the door. “Any X-rays?” the porter called out. “Oh yes,” I
to me about Zeno and The Iliad. Thanks to Paddy Anderson and Chemi Marquez for their incomparable humor, hosting me at the Carmen del Meñique in Granada, and giving me an insight into the romería. Robin Robertson graciously gave me permission to write about and reproduce “The Halving.” Iain Sinclair permitted me to quote from Landor’s Tower. Kathleen Jamie and Brigid Collins permitted me to write about, reproduce and quote from Frissure. Thanks to Iain Bamforth for letting me quote from