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Waiting, strange: transplant recipient experience, medical time, and queer/crip temporalities

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/05/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Medical Humanities
Number of pages9
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date28/05/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

People who receive a ‘solid’ organ transplant from a deceased person may experience imaginative challenges in making sense of how the transfer impacts their own past and future, as shown in existing scholarship. Building on such work, this article considers how the temporalities of medical encounter itself may also become temporally ambiguous, posing representational challenges both pre- and post-transplantation. The dominant narrative of transplant in transplantation journals and hospital communications, both clinical and patient-facing, presents surgery as a healing moment, yet the recipient’s experience of hospital, pharmacology and daily self-monitoring may be disorienting in multiple ways which resist conventional conceptions of medical temporalities of cure. Examining memoirs by Robert Pensack and Richard McCann, this article suggests the transplant temporalities may be fruitfully approached through scholarship of ‘queering’ time and ‘crip’ time. While the medical narrative of transplant focuses on the event of transplantation, these texts construct post-transplant time as still profoundly structured by waiting, expectation, and suspense, the transformed body less healed than permanently contingent and fragile in different ways. I do not purport to uncover the ‘truth’ of bleak survival hidden within a story of the miraculous. Rather, I am reaching for a critical practice to recognise subtle entanglements of medicalised time, and identify a tension and synthesis between miracle and the chronic, an insight which may also be of service for other critical approaches to memoir of heroic medicine.