(A glimpse into my life as a Vanderbilt medical student)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Wheelbarrows and Neurofibrillary Tangles

The Red Wheelbarrow

So much depends upon
a red wheel barrow
glazed with rain water
beside the white chickens

-William Carlos Williams

Words that are no doubt familiar to many of you. I have heard it said that context is everything, and, while this poem certainly has significance to the human existence on its own merit, the context that I encountered it in today was both arresting and profoundly moving.

For our neuro class, we are required to choose a book that deals with the issue of neurological disease. Dr. Norden has stressed in class the profound impact that these problems have on the lives of those afflicted and their families and she wanted us to have some insight into their stories. I chose Losing My Mind by Thomas DeBaggio.

Mr. DeBaggio is one of the unfortunate sufferers of early onset familial Alzheimer’s. Losing My Mind chronicles his descent into the shadows of the disease with stark detail and frank honesty. In reference to the poem above, he cites the verses as a reference to “the relevance of small, familiar things, how they comfort and steady our lives.” These small familiar things were slowly being taken away from him as the tau protein in his brain became tangled knots of useless protein. Barriers on the path to memory.

I have discussed before how frequently I encounter difficulty when trying to relate to my patients. One of the exceptional remedies to this, I believe, common malady among physicians is the emerging genre of medical media. Through the stories of Mr. DeBaggio and others, I feel that I finally able to understand just a little of how they experience their illness. Perhaps true empathy depends on these brief glimpses of the red wheelbarrow.


Blogger minerva said...

That was a nice allusion to William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow"..
Nice how you've incorporated your medical knowledge into your musings too ~ Keep up the great job!

Do take care & Best wishes,

8:03 AM


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