Someone else’s lungs

I know personally of the joy of Charity Tillemann-Dick’s soaring soprano and the agony and pain she endured to be able to share it with those of us fortunate to hear her [“The Voice,” May 28]. For years, I attended Hungarian embassy events — piano recitals, poetry readings, string quartet concerts — but there was nothing like the times when Charity took the stage, belted out Broadway show tunes, an Italian aria or a little Bartok concerto. We all sat up straighter, became totally enthralled with her vocal range — even tapped our feet and hummed along.

Now, whenever I feel sorry for myself suffering through a sniffle or a bout with flu, I think of what Charity endured — illness and two lung-transplant surgeries — and I am ashamed to whimper in the least. Thank you for sharing the story of a truly dedicated musician and a role model who personifies strength, talent and perseverance.

Kathy Megyeri, Washington

Doctors are fallible

Re: “A clue to a girl’s painful ailment goes long overlooked” [May 21]:

As a pediatrician who practiced for 30 years, I was concerned about the delayed diagnosis and the dismissal of severe abdominal pain by some physicians in the case you cite. It turned out that this 16-year-old girl had two uteruses.

This condition is very rare. This teen had a previously identified congenital absence of one kidney, which could have been a tip-off that another congenital anomaly (that of the uterus) was present. However, a physician may not even encounter a single such case in a lifetime of practicing medicine.

One can always find instances of negligence, ignorance, arrogance and poor judgment in medicine. But how about the many times where doctors get it right from the beginning?

The public has only a dim idea of the complexity of physicians’ decision-making. It is not that doctors are ignorant, but that the very nature of this decision-making, under the best of circumstances, is so difficult. And it is not that many doctors are careless or uncaring. Careful attention, good communication skills, and current knowledge are required by every physician to maintain their professional reputation and to avoid litigation.

Medicine is invariably an imperfect vocation. Physicians do well to learn from all errors, to admit and learn from their own errors sooner than later, and to always walk humbly. There is no substitute in medicine for constant attention and study. As has been said, “Medicine is a jealous mistress.”

Ronald S. Bashian, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Arlington

Opening our eyes

I was pleased to see your article on retina detachment and baby boomers [May 21]. Coincidentally, it appeared the day after I had my second round of retina surgery.

My first detachment came without any floaters or lights, just after my 60th birthday in 2011. It required emergency surgery, and all the recovery that comes with that, including being facedown for a week. My “better” eye had its first tear a year later and more recently, another. My retina doctor recommended surgery as the best way to stop the retina from detaching further as the laser procedure didn’t seem to be holding it at bay.

Your article opened people’s eyes to the importance of getting help quickly and the fact that it can happen to anyone.

Donna S. Haarz , Vienna

The overly protective blue jay

I enjoyed your Urban Jungle article on blue jay parenting [May 28], especially after what I saw recently in my neighborhood.

I live in Middleburg, where there are lots and lots of birds, squirrels, rabbits, etc. I was walking my dog and all of a sudden a squirrel rushed out of the yard next to us with a blue jay in hot pursuit. The bird was dive-bombing the squirrel every step of the way and biting hard on the squirrel’s rear. The squirrel was running for his life and trying his best to find a tree to run up. He finally made it, with the bird still biting him.

I figured the squirrel had been at the bird’s nest trying to get either the babies or the eggs and deserved what he was getting. After reading your article, I’m sure of it.

Betty L. Barrett, Middleburg

Which comes first?

Disrupted ‘brain clock’ is linked to depression in new study” [May 21] says that the association between the two problems occurs whether or not the patient was taking antidepressants, “suggesting that it’s the disease and not the treatment that causes the circadian rhythm problems.”

I would suggest that in many cases it’s the circadian rhythm problems that are causing “the disease” (the depression), not the other way around.

Too many people, even including doctors, are conditioned to think of the depression as the primary disorder.

Instead, it seems likely that circadian rhythm disorders can be primary, and can result in depression as a consequence. When it is possible to fix the circadian rhythm problem, the depression may clear up as well.

Peter Mansbach,


Circadian Sleep Disorders Network,