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Near Death In The ICU


Sensitive but skeptical, a narrative for practitioners and patients alike about the search to understand a corner of the...

A seasoned doctor takes on the head-scratching phenomenon of near-death experiences.

Part gallery of cases, part theory of medicine, debut memoirist Bellg’s look at near-death experiences bridges issues of body and mind. After forgoing a research career, Bellg pursued work as a critical care doctor in an ICU. The often high-stakes scenarios of the ICU brought her into contact with patients close to drawing their last breaths—or who had “died.” Both recollection and commentary, Bellg’s book tracks her patients’ puzzling out-of-body episodes and her attempts to grapple with them. In one startling anecdote, a patient recovering from cardiac arrest described to Bellg not only the details of his surgery, for which he was supposedly unconscious, but the specifics of a nurse training center on the floor above. Another patient recounted how an injection given as part of an imaging procedure sent him on a race through the cosmos. By happenstance, on Bellg’s first day of medical school—when she received a copy of an anthology that dealt with the “more philosophical, relationship-centered” side of medicine—she encountered something of the approach touted in her own book, one that convincingly advocates stronger roles for empathy, patient testimony, and emotional intelligence in institutionalized medical practice. Framing the history of medicine as a prolonged refutation of superstition, she recognizes the obstacles inherent in persuading others to see NDEs as genuine, not just apparent, medical phenomena. Bellg’s responses to these obstacles, though hardly conclusive, are well-considered. She indicates, for instance, the difficulties that would plague any attempt to seriously study NDEs empirically and suggests that observations of NDEs are “simply the beginning of developing a scientific understanding of them.” And she emphasizes the qualitative differences, for her patients, between NDEs and average dreams. Above all, she argues persuasively that patients should be accorded dignity when their stories about these bizarre but often transformative experiences are acknowledged rather than dismissed.

Sensitive but skeptical, a narrative for practitioners and patients alike about the search to understand a corner of the unknown in medicine.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9965103-0-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Sloan Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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