Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Research Compares CT Scans And Chest X-Rays For Lung Cancer Screening

Lyall A. Gorenstein, MD, FRCS (C), FACS

Lyall A. Gorenstein, MD, FRCS (C), FACS

A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that CT screening reduced deaths from lung cancer by 20%. While it may seem intuitive that screening would help to detect lung cancers and reduce deaths, until now, that had not been definitively proven.

“This is a landmark study,” said Lyall A. Gorenstein, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, who lauded the study’s design and its clear implications for treating patients at risk for lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, but the merits of screening — whether or not it actually improves patient outcomes – has been a topic of debate for the last 30 years. Dr. Gorenstein believes that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

A Poem About An Ending

She coughs
and heaves a breathless goodbye
into the bedside phone.

Her lungs
damp, bloated, sacked honeycomb
wheeze with vanishing bees.

The room
of sensors and startling noise
has not air to float upon.

Morphine
slakes a thirst for breathable sky
and calms the panic within.

The shame
of living, of death smiling,
savoring smoke and ash.

Eyes closed
she imagines her son, boy,
man, precious evermore.

Flowers.
Beautiful white, red, and black
from a husband who waits.

Starstuff
spinning in galaxies far,
with summer lightning bugs.

And then
it is upon her, the moment,
dreaded, practiced, boundless.

We run
through soft sands lit by moonlight,
now tumbling under waves.

All that matters
doesn’t.
And all that happens
matters.

The absence of pain and hunger
the end of struggle and story
mark an indifferent,
yet decent,
finish.

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

Book Review: Life Disrupted

Laurie Edwards has an extremely rare disorder called primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD). The condition causes similar signs and symptoms to cystic fibrosis (CF), including chronic lung infections and difficulty breathing. In her recent book, Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness In Your Twenties And Thirties, Laurie invites readers to experience her life as a chronically ill young woman. She spares no gory details:

I had to wear the probe for forty-eight hours to see if irregularities in my GI tract were contributing to my breathing problems. It was an awkward contraption, and just as I finished speaking, I sneezed. Because of the tubes, I couldn’t control it well and a bloody mess spewed out of my nose and onto my shirt. I looked down at the mess and up at John.

‘Sexy, huh?’ I asked, completely mortified.

But beyond the raw realities of her illness (including the regular disruption in her education, her unfulfilled longings to “fit in,” and her lack of control of her circumstances), is the amazing story of the people who love her. Life Disrupted‘s ironic subtext is the unshakable support of her family and friends.

From her earliest first moments at home, Laurie’s brother “spent hours standing guard at her bassinet, as if to reassure her mother nothing would happen to her.” As she grew older, her brother continued his protective commitment, promising to always be ready to help her in any time of need. Laurie’s parents had a strong and loving marriage, and their patience and kindness were a constant source of security and comfort.

Laurie’s husband shows incredible stoicism and endurance – undeterred by her diagnosis (which she revealed to him unwittingly on their first date), he learns how to give her chest physical therapy by week three of their relationship, and remains calm during a dangerous near-suffocation episode.

He was perfect. He did not get flustered, did not panic, just got me home as quickly as possible, unlocked my door, and ran to set up the nebulizer. He clapped me while I positioned myself with the nebulizer mask and tubing, trying to manually break up the thick mucus that cut off my air supply.

My favorite part of Life Disrupted is its humor. Laurie does an admirable job of capturing the amusing banter that she and her friends used to lighten the mood:

My friends and I refer to my nebulizer and oxygen face mask in the hospital as the “Super Bong.”

And my favorite sentence of the book is this one:

It was a container of honey mustard salad dressing that turned out to be my Waterloo, the moment of my crushing, flabbergasting defeat.

Laurie’s life – disrupted by chronic illness – is charming, vibrant, and rich in affection. The disruption itself is perhaps diminished by the connectedness of her family and friends – a healthy emotional backdrop to the  physical illness at center stage. In the end, Life Disrupted offers compelling evidence that love really can conquer all.

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »