Monday, December 17, 2007

A Question of a Caecum Or a Kidney

The doctor said: such and such indicates that you have such and such, but if an analysis of such and such does not confirm this, then we have to assume you have such and such....One simply had to weigh the alternatives: a floating kidney, chronic catarrh, or a disease of the caecum. It was not a matter of Ivan Ilyich's life but a conflict between a floating kidney and a disease of the caecum.

He remembered his medicine, raised himself, took it, then lay on his back observing what a beneficial effect the medicine was having, how it was killing the pain. "Only I must take it regularly and avoid anything that could have a bad effect on me. I feel somewhat better already, much better." He began probing his side--it was not painful to touch. "I really can't feel anything there, it's much better already." He put out the candle and lay on his side--his caecum was improving, absorbing. Suddenly he felt the old, familiar, dull, gnawing pain--quiet, serious, insistent. The same familiar bad taste in his mouth. His heart sank, he felt dazed. "My God, my God!" he muttered. "Again and again, and it will never end." And suddenly he saw things in an entirely different light. "A caecum! A kidney!" he exclaimed inwardly. "It's not a question of a caecum or a kidney, but of life and...death. Yes, life was there and now it's going, going, and I can't hold on to it. Yes. Why deceive myself? Isn't it clear to everyone but me that I'm dying?"
--Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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