Category Archives: Spotlight
Although this blog is for book reviews, I felt it necessary to write this post about a series on Netflix that captured my attention and emotions. On a recommendation from a friend, I decided to watch 13 Reasons Why, the phenomenal show that explores the life of a teenager girl who commits suicide and the lives of those around her. The powerful messages in the show resonate long after its conclusion, an influx of emotions and revelations that brought me to tears. The creators of the show have stated that they believe this show has the power to change the world. Having finished it, I concur wholeheartedly. There are those who will watch the show and feel that the characters, in particular Hannah, might be “too sensitive” or “fragile”. The reality is the events that happen in the show have occurred for generations but were rarely ever discussed. It has been common practice to sweep things under the rug and pretend as if they do not exist. We as a society know far better.
The story begins with Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), a sophomore who receives a box of cassettes from his deceased friend, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) who has recently committed suicide. She recorded the tapes before her death and each tape is dedicated to an individual she encountered that is in some way responsible for her death. As Clay listens to the tapes, we are introduced to the main characters and the roles they played in the web of deceit and suspicion that has engulfed their school. The adults are largely clueless to what happens at the school and even the administrators are a loss as to why Hannah has taken her own life. But as the story progresses, we see the signs were all there and no one picked up on her plight. Her parents have sued the school and refused a paltry settlement. Each of the students known to associate with her are subpoenaed for depositions and give their side of the story. The severity of the lawsuit and the internal demons that plague the characters, cause them to unravel as each seeks to protect their own imagine while reconciling their feelings of guilt in another student’s demise. In death, Hannah is vindicated and the full story finally comes to light. due to the efforts of Clay, the lawyers and Tony, who serves as Clay’s guardian angel per Hannah’s instructions. In life, there are Hannah’s all over this world who suffer in silence and make the ultimate decision to end their lives. Our hope is that we can reach them before it is too late.
When he realizes how he failed to help Hannah, Clay makes a statement that is deep and is literally the problem throughout the show. He says “I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her”. As scary as it may sound, we all know or have known someone who could have been Hannah. The face may be different but the struggles can be similar. If there is anything we can learn from the story, it is that we should show and tell the people close to us that we love them when we can and be there for them in their time of need. Tomorrow is never guaranteed and as we see in the show, we never know what a person is going through.
All of us have faced bullies before in the schoolyard, in the neighborhood or even at work. But what took place in the show went far beyond bullying and is a reflection on the problems that continue to plague society. Behavior that is atrocious and inappropriate cannot be excused for kids being kids, boys being boys or just “locker room talk.” The women who are victims of sexual assault and harassment could be our sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces, cousins, spouses and friends. And for those of us who are parents, this could be your daughter. I do not have any children of my own, but if I did have a daughter, I would make it my duty to make sure that she knows the ugliness that people are crafty at hiding. But more importantly, listen to her and watch for signs that she is in trouble and reaching out. Often, we do not realize what once was until it is too late and hindsight is always 20/20. But perhaps we can adjust our vision to see what is right in front of us.
Hannah’s tragedy is fictional, but she represents what some of us will go through in life. Her life ended in a most tragic manner before she had a chance to fully live. And although she is a fictional character, that does not take away from the messages that the filmmakers and stars of the show are conveying to us. Robert F. Kennedy once said that tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not by which to live. If you have yet to watch this show, do so and I guarantee it will reach you in ways you never imagined.
Suicide is never an issue to be taken lightly. If you or anyone you know has had thoughts about suicide or made an attempt to end their life, please be aware that there is help available. You do not have to keep everything inside, reach out and speak to someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are available seven days a week, twenty four hours a day for anyone that needs help.
The evolution of medical care in the United States is as scary as it is fascinating. Today it is hard to fathom the once draconian methods physicians used to treatment even the most common ailments. In fact, methods were so primitive, a patient was more likely to die at a hospital than at home. Of course now, the opposite is most likely to happen. America is home for some of the best hospitals in the world and cutting edge medical care. But the path taken to reach this point was long, torturous and in some cases, shocking beyond belief. At the center of the development in hospital care was a facility that became an icon in New York City, Bellevue Hospital. The hospital which is still open today, has a long history that is largely unknown. And the patients admitted there today are most likely highly unaware of the hospital’s storied past and how it came one of the City’s leading medical facilities.
Pulitzer Prize winner David Oshinksy has compiled this incredible investigative report into the history of Bellevue. And it is all here; the good, the bad and the extreme ugly. Through exhaustive research, he has carefully reconstructed the history of the hospital and others in the City of New York. And although Bellevue is the subject of the book, the provides fascinating details about the origins of other hospitals in the City, some of which are no longer in existence. St. Vincent’s is the first to come to mind. The founders of these hospitals and the early pioneers of treatment there have been forgotten over time but Oshinsky brings them all back to life as he examines their lives and their contributions to the field of medicine. The book feels like a step back into time to an era in which emergency care often resulted in an emergency itself.
As a native New Yorker, I have passed Bellevue both on foot and by car dozens of times. In fact, my mother had a brief admission there several years ago. However at no time was I even vaguely aware of the importance of the place in which I stood. The history contained within the walls of the hospital is nothing short of astounding. And having read this phenomenal work, I can exclaim that I had grateful for all of the advancements made in the field of medicine. And I know that I do have to go to Bellevue, I will be in the care of the some of the best physicians New York City has to offer. But as Oshinsky shows us, Bellevue also has a very dark past that often bordered on the unreal.
It will be hard for readers to imagine what medical care used to be like during a time when doctors were still learning how to treat even common conditions. In an era before anesthesia, antibiotics and even proper sanity conditions, most patients entered the hospital and never left. Those who did die, ran the risk of ending up in potter’s field which at the time existed in more than one location in the city. As plagues swept through the City, the death toll mounted as doctors struggled to keep up. Their attempts to treat the conditions and the solutions employed were beyond surreal and today they would be considered criminal. Bellevue, while an early pioneer for above standard medical care, was not exempt and carries to this day, a fair number of its own horror stories that turned a blossoming hospital into the scorn of the City. These stories included horrific medical practices, insufficient security and criminal neglect. However, through every major crisis faced by the City of New York, Bellevue’s doors were always open and have remained so to this day. Even in times when ethnicity determined where you received medical treatment and mental institutions could not contain the sick, Bellevue took in all comers and that tradition has continued.
For those who are history lovers and want to know about the City of New York and in particular Bellevue hospital, this is the place to start. Not only will you learn about Bellevue, but you will also learn about the history of the medical field in the United States and see how far society has come and how are we still have to go for the past is always prologue .