Howard Brody has written a terrific book called Stories of Sickness. I am going to talk to you about some ideas in this book which I have found helpful in thinking about experiences of sickness--my own and others-- and in thinking about experiences of 'story',--as storytelling, as fiction and fact that I have read about in books. The point would be to have story and sickness reflect on each other to increase understanding of the human condition, maybe in a big way. This document may go on for a bit, so relax.
One of the key ideas Brody introduces is how the ideas of sickness and respect go together. We know that sick people can lose the respect of others and can lose self-respect when disability keeps them performing their usual social duties like working and socializing. Think about that for a moment. .
A healthy person has an accident/contracts a disease, and then has to be pushed around in a wheelchair, has to be fed and toileted, and so on, loses status as an adult, and, being treated like a baby, that person gets the 'respect' or lack of accorded to a 'dependent' or 'useless' person. Can happen, and does: we all know the story--we see it in the media all the time. Such a person can lose self-respect to the point of committing suicide--directly or by withdrawal into a drugged state, a degraded state. We all know the story. Or, by some extraordinary circumstance of character or support from a near one, that person manage to not only retain/regain self respect, but to earn the respect of others. Who's stories can we think of in this regard? Te remarkable Helen Keller comes to mind. Put some of your examples on the CourseRoom Discussion Space.
After hanging out in this topic for a while, we could think of a lot of particular stories about particularly afflicted people. And our ability to do so depends on, owes a lot to the insights of trained storytellers, sometimes the sick person(which makes a topic of it's own--the illness that created the writer that created the healing of respect), or to some dedicated observer of the disabled, like Oliver Sacks--some great storyteller writer, director, composer.