The problem here is that the writer is going to run out of Italian recipes and ribald comments for poor Aunt Maria Lucia eventually and, if and when that happens after a few years, the character herself is going to become as tired and lifeless as her oil pizza.
8. The last line of the story is this: "When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills." In what ways is this an ironic statement? What is gained by having the doctors make such a statement rather than putting it in the mouths of Josephine or Richards?
Over the next half-hour of conversation, I learned that Winkle Fulk had been slowly dying for four years, had been bedbound for three of those years, as Dave and their children watched her life dwindle away, as fluid filled her lungs and began to destroy her heart. Rebecca's fate had been much more sudden; having contracted hepatitis in the army, she crashed almost immediately. To make matters worse, Rebecca and her new husband had separated. As I sat in the darkened waiting area with Dave Fulk and Rebecca's parents, I suddenly realized what it was I was looking for, what my frame or narrative element could be. I wanted to tell about the organ transplant experience - and what organ transplantation can mean from a universal perspective - medically, scientifically, personally for patients, families and surgeons. Rebecca's parents and the Fulk family, once strangers, would now be permanently and intimately connected by still another stranger - the donor - the person whose tragic death provided hope and perhaps salvation to two dying people. In fact, my last quest in the research phase of the transplant book experience was to discover the identity of this mysterious donor and literally connect the principal characters. In so doing, the frame or narrative drive of the story emerged.
"Many Sleepless Nights" begins when 15-year-old Richie Becker, a healthy and handsome teen-ager from Charlotte, N.C., discovers that his father is going to sell the sports car that he had hoped would one day be his. In a spontaneous and thoughtless gesture of defiance, Richie, who had never been behind the wheel, secretly takes his father's sports car on a joy ride. Three blocks from his home, he wraps the car around a tree and is subsequently declared brain dead at the local hospital. Devastated by the experience, but hoping for some positive outcome to such a senseless tragedy, Richie's father, Dick, donates his son's organs for transplantation.
In fact, my meeting with Dave Fulk in the ICU waiting room that dark morning was exactly the experience I had been waiting for, leading to that precious and magic moment of clarity for which I was searching and hoping. When I arrived, Mr. Fulk was talking with an elderly man and woman from Sacramento, Calif., who happened to be the parents of a 21-year-old U.S. Army private named Rebecca Treat who, I soon discovered, was the recipient of the liver from the same donor who gave Dave's wife (Winkle Fulk) a heart and lungs. Rebecca Treat, "life-flighted" to Pittsburgh from California, had been in a coma for 10 days by the time she arrived in Pittsburgh; the transplanted liver was her only hope of ever emerging from that coma and seeing the light of day.
When combined with the contemporary society's beliefs --- presumably the later half of the 19th century for this story -- a further understanding of Chopin's thoughts and feelings can be realized.
The story is very short (only two pages), so is interesting to look at as a minimalist piece of literature, and the surprise ending offers an opportunity to look at Chopin's use of foreshadowing.
Then the story flashes back a half century, detailing surgeons' first attempts at transplantation and all of the experimentation and controversy leading up to the development and acceptance of transplant techniques. I introduce Winkle Fulk and Pvt. Rebecca Treat. Richie Becker's liver is transplanted into Rebecca, while his heart and lungs are sewn into Mrs. Fulk by Dr. Bartley Griffith. The last scene of the book 370 pages later is dramatic and telling and finishes the frame three years later when Winkle Fulk travels to Charlotte, N.C., a reunion I arranged to allow the folks to personally thank Richie's father for his son's gift of life.
She has everything and nothing all in the same moment "an hour." The author delves into Louise's thoughts and feelings, and they surprisingly contradict her initial description of her.
Then, instead of moving the story forward, fulfilling my promise to Dr. Griffith and resolving my own writing dilemma, I change directions, move backwards (flashback) in time and sequence and begin to discuss this genre - immersion journalism/creative nonfiction. I provide a mountain of information - definitions, descriptions, examples, explanations. Basically, I am attempting to satisfy the nonfiction part of my responsibility to my readers and my editors while hoping that the suspense created in the first few pages will provide an added inducement for readers to remain focused and interested in this Introduction from the beginning to the end where, (the reader assumes) the two stories introduced in the first few pages will be completed.
Now let's think about this essay as a piece of creative nonfiction writing, especially in relation to the concept of framing. It begins with a scene. We are in an operating room at the University of Pittsburgh, the world's largest organ transplant center, in the middle of a rare and delicate surgery that will decide a dying woman's fate. Her heart and both lungs have been emptied out of her chest and she is maintained on a heart-bypass system. The telephone alerts the surgical team that a fresh and potentially lifesaving set of organs has arrived at the hospital via helicopter. Suddenly the lead surgeon looks up and asks an observer (me) to make contact with the woman's husband. I agree, leave the operating room and then stop for a coffee in the surgeon's lounge.
As demonstrated in "Pulp Fiction," writers don't always frame in a strictly chronological sequence. My book, "One Children's Place," begins in the operating room at a children's hospital. It introduces a surgeon, whose name is Marc Rowe, his severely handicapped patient, Danielle, and her mother, Debbie, who has dedicated her every waking moment to Danielle. Two years of her life have been spent inside the walls of this building with parents and children from all across the world whose lives are too endangered to leave the confines of the hospital. As Danielle's surgery goes forward, the reader tours the hospital in a very intimate way, observing in the emergency room, participating in helicopter rescue missions as part of the emergency trauma team, attending ethics meetings, well-baby clinics, child abuse examinations - every conceivable activity at a typical high-acuity children's hospital so that readers will learn from the inside out how such an institution and the people it services and supports function on an hour-by-hour basis. We even learn about Marc Rowe's guilty conscience about how he has slighted his own wife and children over the years so that he can care for other families.
Some frames are very complicated, as in the movie, "Pulp Fiction"; Quentin Tarantino skillfully tangles and manipulates time. But the most basic frame is a simple beginning-to-end chronology. "Hoop Dreams," for example, the dramatic documentary (which is also classic creative nonfiction) begins with two African-American teen-age basketball stars living in a ghetto and sharing a dream of stardom in the NBA and dramatically tracks both of their careers over the next six years.