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First Published January 15th 2008.

     I work up close and personal with disability everyday. When people found I was going into child neurology their first question was often, “why”? I often hear about how it’s too sad or too depressing.

Fellow physicians struggle with the fact that there often isn’t anything we can do to fix severe cerebral palsy or neurodegenerative disease, to name but a few. There is something in our nature that makes us shrink from the deformed and debilitated. Read the rest of this entry »

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     When I was in medical school, I was treated by my wife to a fascinating and gripping performance by Tom Hanks in the movie, castaway.  While I can’t say the movie was profound or life changing, I found its depiction of isolation and loneliness was quite powerful.  In the movie, Tom Hanks works for FedEx, where the plane he is riding crashes into the ocean.  He is the sole survivor marooned on an Island. 
     It is a very basic man vs. Nature plot, as he creates fire, steps on bad things, hurts his hand, bleeds, has a basic cavity volcano into a horrific abcess in the absence of a dentist, etc. al etc.  In the midst of all this, washing up on the shore of the Island with him are a few FedEx packages, one of which containing Wilson volleyball.  It happens to be nearby when he mauls his hand in a firemaking attempt and he smears blood on it.  A little later he fashions the stain into a face, cleverly calling it by the moniker splayed across the ball itself, Wilson. 
     The amazing part of the movie is that as Hanks feels more and more isolated, he anthropomorphizes the ball more and more.  He converses with it throughout the movie as a friend and confidant.  After some years, he escapes the Island on a makeshift raft, Wilson in tow.  As he sleeps, the ball falls off the raft and floats away.  Hanks is besides himself, grief stricken, and forlorn, and wails pitifully for the return of Wilson.  The audience themselves (well me, anyway)  experience this surprising sense of loss as well.  We grieve as He grieves.  Thus, the intrinsic human need for other human contact is put on bright display.  It is a need so powerful that in its absence we will create it out of contact with the inhuman, even the inanimate.  It turns out humans have a basic need for each other. 

Castaway, the story of a plane wreck survivor and the volleyball he loved. (now that's lonely)

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