A Patient's Guide to Some Recommended Hospital Reading

by Jim Gleason, Heart Transplant Recipient


This collection of recommended readings are intended to be a source of strength and support for the patient facing a serious or life-threatening challenge in the area of their health. My personal experience was one of a failing heart that required a lengthy in-hospital confinement culminating in open heart surgery to replace a worn out heart with a new younger one. My experience was, and continues to be, a very positive one. This paper is one of a series reflecting on that experience from the patient's view in the hopes of helping other who find themselves facing similar challenges. The patient can do a lot to aid their support team of medical professionals with a positive and proactive approach to the healing process. These reference works are current, popular (i.e., easy to find in local bookstores) and filled with both easy to read, yet mentally challenging, material. If you are a patient, help your family and friends when they ask how they can help by suggesting they get a book from this list for you. If you are family or friends supporting such patients, this list can give you some real answers to that age-old question we all ask: "What can I do to help?" So stop feeling helpless in that foreign environment one finds themselves in when illness takes over and find ideas of action and understanding you can have to take control of your own situation and make a difference! By all means enjoy the new found time your illness offers to get into some long overdue reading . . .

Love, Medicine & Miracles

by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. (1988)

subtitled: Lessons learned about self-healing from a surgeon's experience with exceptional patients

This classic in proactive health care where the patient is the key member of the medical team is absolutely "must" reading for any hospitalized patient, especially if the stay is for any extended period. In the case of waiting for a heart transplant, the wait is for an unknown period until a donor heart is found. You will die if you lay back and vegetate in the patient passive role model. Dr. Siegel, while actually writing to the audience of doctors, has a lot to say about the miracles he has seen when the patient takes an active role in the treatment process and offers many inspirational success stories relevant to every patient's situation. Consider the following sample of quotes from this book:

- p 42: "Getting well is not the only goal. Even more important is learning to live without fear, to be at peace with life, and ultimately death."

- p 24: "Exceptional patients refuse to be victims. They educate themselves and become specialists in their own care. They question the doctors because they want to understand their treatment and participate in it.. They demand dignity, personhood, and control, no matter what the course of the disease."

If you're looking for just one book, this is it! Looking for a place to begin reading? This is it!

Note: check out page 243 of the book for a list of available video and audio cassettes for those less able to focus on reading

(Perennial Library, Harper & Row, Publishers @ $8.95 - paperback, 243pp)

Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient

- by Norman Cousins (1979)

A best selling classic detailing the account of the late Norman Cousins' and his successful fight against a crippling disease. Together, patient and doctor, overcame the odds with laughter, courage and tenacity. Focus is on the power of the mind to be a most powerful tool in the healing process. Here we are motivated by one man's story of what the mind and body, working together, can do to overcome illness. I found this book to be very motivational at a critical time in my own life threatening illness - I hope it does the same for you (or your loved one...).

Note: excellent bibliography starting on page 163 of the book (10 pages long)

(Bantam Books @ $10 - paperback, 173pp)

Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old

- by Deepak Chopra, M.D. (1993)

This is a much tougher reading book, but well worth the effort. Basic premise is that we are all spiritual beings currently living a temporary human experience in time/space. Some very interesting ideas about living life to the fullest with a body that nature has designed to last at least 130 years offer the reader the challenge to do just that - supported by examples from societies around the world today. There are some other ideas that, while presented and documented here (i.e., ref. p. 22), are not accepted by most doctors I have discussed them with. Specifically, Deepak talks about the transference of intelligence in organ transplants between donor and recipient. Sure makes for some interesting conversations about this concept which in turn makes the time you are waiting pass quickly. More and more I am finding support for this concept in current articles in other publications (like the June '95 issue of National Geographic's piece on the human mind) The concept of not aging in the traditional sense makes this book worth reading on its own - but its filled with even more valuable reading beyond that. Remember, I told you this was not easy reading - just challenge yourself to a couple of pages each day.

Note: A chapter filled with exercises to support the methods and theories discussed is given at the conclusion of each major section of this book. Audio cassettes of this book are also available, but the accent of Deepak Chopra made it very hard for me to understand the issues presented.

(Harmony Books, Division of Crown Publishers, NY @ $22 - hardback, 342pp)

Healing and the Mind - interviews by Bill Moyers


Each of the 5 sections of the book presents interviews with world-renowned experts and laypeople looking at the mind-body connection from various angles. Very current, it often investigates today's research activity and looks to the future of many such development areas. It too supports the concept of cellular intelligence which in turn relates to the concept opened in Deepak's book above and how organ transplantation involves transference of emotions, memories, and other human intelligence. The book is an excellent mind exerciser and will serve to help the patient to grow in their understanding of the human body's self-healing powers - instead of letting the patient sleep away the days of opportunity presented during the illness, recovery and healing process. From the book: "Healing and the Mind is a feast for the heart as much as it is for the brain. It will challenge some of your assumptions, affirm some of your suspicions, and enrich your life. It might even save it." Sure does make it sound worth reading, doesn't it.

Note: This book is a companion to the PBS television series of the same name and is available on audiocassettes. In audio format, makes for great listening during exercising or walking. At times you will be frustrated because you can't see the picture that supports the audio if all you have are the audio cassettes.

(A Main Street Book, published by Doubleday @ $17.50 - paperback, 369pp)

Chicken Soup for the Soul

(1993) and just released,

A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul

(1995)- written and compiled by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

Be prepared! You're going to cry and laugh with each story in this marvelous collection of beautiful short pieces collected from literally everywhere. The reader is solicited for pieces for future volumes, so you can give them your best find or personal experience with the hopes of seeing it in print. Also, be prepared to keep buying more and more copies because you are going to want to give these out to everyone special in your life. They are books of love and inspiration, grouped by topical areas such as Love, Parenting, Learning, Living Your Dream, Overcoming Obstacles, etc. The books are the most entertaining stories I have ever come across in over 50 years of reading pleasure. I wouldn't waste you time trying to describe them - just go out and by several: one for yourself, one for your patient, one for the rest of the family to read (so you can still get through your copy without them walking off with it!) The format is short 1 to 3 pages pieces - excellent for the patient who claims they don't (feel) like reading. Once they pick this up, not only will they not stop reading it (you can pick it up and start anywhere in it), you wouldn't be able to get them to stop telling the stories to everyone that comes to visit them (the stories are so good, that this isn't as bad as it may seem...). Also an excellent book to read aloud to the bedridden patient by their loved ones. Do not miss this opportunity to lighten up your own life and those around you.

Note: available on audio cassettes in multiple volumes (read that: more expensive format)

(Health Communications Inc., - paperback @ $12.95 each)

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