Then came a dog

A fragile-looking old man hooked me up to antibiotics. The sight of the needle made me queasy and I squeezed my eyes shut. The local surgeon, Dr. Veten, gave me two anesthetic shots and started stitching up the wide gash under my nose that tore into my lip. When I opened my eyes every few minutes, the frame of his glasses filled my vision. I couldn’t stop asking him if I’d get a scar. Each time, he confidently said, “No, not at all,” in his steady French tenor, as he strung the needle in and out of my skin.

I learned why a doctor’s voice is important.

Dr. Veten, one of the country’s two oral and maxillofacial surgeons, was in his mid-thirties and looked like he could be on the cast of Gray’s Anatomy. My friend Gina told me he was a “White Moor,” as Arabs are known in Mauritania. I removed the blood-drenched flower-patterned toilet paper and showed him the wound. My elementary French had stayed at the scene of the accident and Gina had to translate, “It’s going to be fine.” He asked if the dog had been vaccinated. Gina said yes.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Preserving life at all costs is wrong, especially in Guantánamo

Leaving politics aside, debates surrounding the force-feedings in Guantánamo Bay highlight our reluctance to accept individuals’ right to die when living becomes intolerable.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes that even when everything was taken away from him in Auschwitz, he still had the freedom to choose how to respond to his circumstances.

Continue reading

“Call me Ishmael.”

When I turned twenty-two — I was about to graduate from college in Boston — I started experiencing intense anxiety. I was always a worrier with deep envy for people who have unyielding optimism for life. But what descended on me then was much worse than my usual worries.

Afternoons became petrifying and I had to stay inside, away from the windows and the setting sun. To this day, I don’t know why it was in the afternoon that I felt such anguish.

Continue reading