Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sickbed reading

Vilostunden by Carl Holsoe

I started this blog, in part, to keep from drifting away ... from losing myself in the red sea of pain and the gray fog of painkillers. An exercise to keep my brain working.

Bits of prose I could have dashed off in minutes six months ago now take grueling hours of pecking at the laptop and endless revising and proofreading. Typing is laborious, but so is thinking. Focus requires energy.

Even reading has become effortful. Books have always been one of the chief pleasures of my life — more than a pleasure, a necessity. I've read rabidly, voraciously, since I first learned to read: on average, probably, four or five books a week. Now, novels I once could've finished in an evening take days, or weeks, and I have trouble following the plot. I've been re-reading old favorites and light fiction, but even they take more concentration than I often have.

The Rainmaker by John Grisham
One of the new books I've got through is The Rainmaker by John Grisham. Maybe it's not new to you. It was a bestseller in 1995, and Francis Ford Coppola made a movie out of it with Matt Damon and Danny DeVito in 1997. We picked a copy up somewhere along the line and apparently lost it in the piles of books around the house.

It resurfaced lately, and it's absorbing enough that it kept my sadly limited attention pretty well through. It moves along. It's written all in the present tense, which gives it a sense of immediacy. And, of course, once I realized what the story was about, I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

The Rainmaker follows a struggling, fledgling ambulance chaser who's landed his first big legal case — a suit against an insurance company that refused to cover a bone-marrow transplant for a leukemia patient, a poor young man now dying for lack of it.

The company has various grounds for denial: The policy didn't cover bone-marrow transplants. (It doesn't say so.) The operation is too experimental. (A half dozen experts say otherwise, and the patient had a perfectly matched donor.) The policy holder failed to disclose a pre-existing condition. (A case of the flu five years before.)

As the case goes on, the insurers and their pack of corporate attorneys dig themselves in deeper, indulging in increasingly desperate dirty tricks as the damning details of company routines come to light. Grisham makes the legal work much more thrilling than I imagine it is in real life.

A couple things are over-the-top — there's a rather gratuitous romance with a woman abused by her husband, and I don't really think all insurance execs are weaselly sexual predators who force themselves on the women who work for them. Yet I absolutely believe nearly everything about insurance industry practices in this book is based on facts. (And that they're even worse today than they were 14 years ago. Grisham was prophetic in some financial details.)

If you don't already, The Rainmaker will make you loathe both lawyers and insurance companies.

I recommend it. If I could afford to, I'd send a copy to every senator and member of Congress.

* * *

Grand RoundsThe next reading I'm tackling is the broad collection of health-care-related blog posts compiled for this week's Grand Rounds, "the weekly rotating carnival of the best of the medical blogosphere," now up at codeblog. My post "15 hours at Stroger Hospital" got a mention. Some of the posts I've read so far make me angry, and I'll probably write something about it here by and by.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you have trouble posting a comment, your browser privacy settings may be interfering. Change your settings to allow third-party cookies (session cookies will do) or add an exception for I apologize, but this is a Blogger issue over which I have no control.