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The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic by…
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The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic (2013)

by Nora Gallagher

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Epigraph
About suffering they were never wrong
The Old Masters: How well they understood
...how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window
or just walking
dully along.
—W. H. Auden, "Musee des Beaux Arts"
Dedication
For the good doctors: Babji Mesipam, Doreen Burks, Robert Wright, Narsing Rao, Clarke Stevens, and Robert Baughman; and for physician's assistant, William P. Holland
First words
The year I drowned, I took the No. 6 train uptown in New York to the Hispanic Society of America to visit their collection of ancient maps.
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Books were to my family's house like beds and stoves, the most basic items, necessary for survival. (p. 75)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307592987, Hardcover)

This taut yet lyrical memoir tells of the author’s experience with a baffling illness poised to take her sight, and gives a deeply felt meditation on vulnerability and on what it means to lose the faith you had and find something better.

One day at the end of 2009, during a routine eye exam that Nora Gallagher nearly skipped, her doctor said, “Darn.” Her right optic nerve was inflamed, the cause unknown, a condition that if left untreated would cause her to lose her sight. And so began her departure from ordinary life and her travels in what she calls Oz, the land of the sick. It looks like the world most of us inhabit, she tells us, except that “the furniture is slightly rearranged”: her friends can’t help her, her trusted doctors don’t know what’s wrong, and what faith she has left just won’t cover it. After a year of searching for a diagnosis and treatment, she arrives at the Mayo Clinic and finds a whole town built around Oz.

In the course of her journey, Gallagher encounters inhuman doctors, the modern medical system—in which knowledge takes fifteen years to trickle down—and the strange world that is the famous Mayo Clinic, complete with its grand piano. With unerring candor, and no sentimentality whatsoever, Gallagher describes the unexpected twists and turns of the path she took through a medical mystery and an unfathomably changing life. In doing so, she gives us a singular, luminous map of vulnerability and dark landscapes. “It’s the nature of things to be vulnerable,” Gallagher says. “The disorder is imagining we are not.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:00 -0400)

Presents a portrait of illness and its impact that describes the discovery of a serious health problem that threatened the author's sight, the ways in which her regard for friends and doctors changed, and the role of her faith in her recovery.

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