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Charting Phelan's ‘To Suffer a Sea Change’
  1. Megan Winkelman1,
  2. Jacqueline Ng2,
  3. Audrey Shafer3
  1. 1Berkeley, California, USA
  2. 2The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, University of California, Irvine, California, USA
  3. 3Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Megan Winkelman, c/o Audrey Shafer, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, 3801 Miranda Avenue, Anesthesia 112A, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA; megan.winkelman{at}


Physicians and healthcare workers usually perceive their medical record entries as documentation rather than construction. In the following article, we extract a medical record from a narrative, Peggy Phelan's pathography of glaucoma, ‘To Suffer a Sea Change’. From information about encounters described by Phelan, an ophthalmologist reconstructs progress notes similar to those that would be key to a glaucoma patient's medical record. Rather than condemning the arcane pointilism of the medical record as a poverty of language, or isolating the pathography as an academic text, we hope to instead appreciate what their collaborative dialogue offers the study of disease. While the points of divergence between these texts will demonstrate failures in communication, they will also unearth an enriched dialogue.

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