The 2014 BBC Reith lecture with Dr Atul Gawande (previously) continue to amaze, delight and inform, and the third one, "The Problem of Hubris," fundamentally changed how I think about (and what I fear about) death. Read the rest
Dr Atul Gawande (whose Reith lecture on systems thinking I featured last week) took to Twitter to express his shock and disgust at the medical professionals who participated in the crimes documented in the CIA torture report. Read the rest
The lecturer for the BBC's 2014 Reith lectures is Dr Atul Gawande, a celebrated author and MD whose book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right is a classic on how to think about systemic problem solving (which pays attention to how different people and activities come together to make and solve problems). Read the rest
If you haven't read this 2008 New Yorker article about a woman who had a chronic itch on her head and over time scratched through her skull in till she reached her brain, here it is. And when you're finished, give this song a listen. Singer-songwriter Teddy Blanks was inspired by the article to compose and record The Itch.
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In “The Itch,” Atul Gawande wrote about a woman called M. who couldn’t stop scratching an itch on her head, so much so that, at some point, she scratched all the way to her brain. It was a gruesome read for some of us -- little, imaginary itches began to sprout, and it was impossible not to scratch. But for the singer-songwriter Teddy Blanks, it was an inspiration. Blanks remembers reading the article one day on the train and was, as he puts it, “squirming in my seat.” Later that night, as he tried to write, he saw The New Yorker on his bedside table. Unable to get Gawande’s words out of his head, he composed his own “Itch,” a little ditty about, well, itching.
Last night I listened to a New Yorker podcast interviewing Atul Gawande, author of an article in the latest issue about itching. It's fascinating.
“Scratching is one of the sweetest gratifications of nature, and as ready at hand as any,” Montaigne wrote. “But repentance follows too annoyingly close at its heels.” For M., certainly, it did: the itching was so torturous, and the area so numb, that her scratching began to go through the skin. At a later office visit, her doctor found a silver-dollar-size patch of scalp where skin had been replaced by scab. M. tried bandaging her head, wearing caps to bed. But her fingernails would always find a way to her flesh, especially while she slept.
One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, “this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid.” She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.’s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night–and all the way into her brain.
Read "The Itch" | Listen to interview with "The Itch" author Atul Gawande Read the rest