The Blue Man and Other Stories of the Skin

The Blue Man and Other Stories of the Skin

ROBERT NORMAN
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 158
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt5hjhz6
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Blue Man and Other Stories of the Skin
    Book Description:

    Written by a leading dermatologist,The Blue Man and Other Stories of the Skinprovides a compelling and accessible introduction to the life of our largest organ, while also recounting the author's experiences with memorable patients he has treated who suffer from mysterious skin conditions. Robert Norman begins by highlighting the qualities of the skin, tracing the history of its conditions and diseases, then examining the cultural, social and psychological impact of both color and irregularity. The book also features an absorbing collection of stories about some of his most intriguing patients: from a man whose skin mysteriously turned blue, to a hypochondriacal woman who begins to show signs of a life-threatening disease. This is a fascinating account of the dynamic nature of the skin, and the people who inhabit it.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95250-8
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. PART ONE. OUR VITAL SKIN
    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 1-6)

      What is the function of the skin? It is the information source and processor. It is the foundation for sensory reception. It is a barrier between us and our environment. It is an immunologic source of hormones for protective cell differentiation. It protects our underlying organs from radiation and mechanical injury. It serves as a barrier to toxic materials and foreign organisms. It plays a major role in regulating blood pressure and the flow of blood. It performs regenerative repair. It works as a temperature regulator. It is involved in the metabolism and storage of fat, salt, and water. It...

    • CHAPTER ONE WHAT COVERS US?
      (pp. 7-16)

      Our skin, at the most basic level, defines us.

      The skin is the body’s largest organ, averaging twenty square feet and nine pounds; it makes up 16 percent of the body’s weight. The skin is complicated but amazing in structure; it can be the target and dwelling place of thousands of tiny viruses, bacteria, or yeasts, yet does a stellar job of living with the good and keeping out the bad, all to protect the inner environment.

      The epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, is a major part of the immune system. It is filled with Langerhans cells that form...

    • CHAPTER TWO CARE AND PROTECTION OF THE SKIN
      (pp. 17-28)

      As soon as I walked in the room to introduce myself to Guillermo, I knew he represented a challenge of long duration. Populating his face and neck were at least fifteen easily recognizable skin cancers spread out in odd arrangements and patterns. He had one of the worst collective cases of these cancers that I had ever seen. None of them were immediately life threatening, but the disfigurement was horrible. “I have most of these many years,” he said in halting English. “My family tell me I need to get them off.”

      “Your family is right,” I said. Guillermo spent...

    • CHAPTER THREE THE HIDDEN LIFE ON THE SKIN
      (pp. 29-40)

      Inspecting our front yard sago palm on a clear fall day, I noted a thin coating that looked like frost, except this was Tampa, and the weather was eighty degrees. On a closer look, the sparkling sun revealed an infestation of Asian cycad scale(Aulacaspis yasumatsui),a blight that sucks the life out of king and queen sago palm trees. The microscopically tiny white insect has an armored coating and multiplies faster than a duck crossing a superhighway with its tail on fire, reaching a density of about three thousand per square inch. In a few months, a fifteen-foot queen...

    • CHAPTER FOUR MELANOCYTES AND THE COLOR OF HUMAN LIFE
      (pp. 41-54)

      A patient of mine named Sophia brought her fourteen-year-old son, Anthony, to see me. “He’s getting some white spots on his face and his hands,” she said. “They started off small but now I can see they have gotten bigger.” As he sat on the examining table, Anthony appeared as placid about his skin as his mother was agitated. Sophia pointed out the discrepancies in skin color that had appeared over the last several months. Given the emotions that can come up for a parent in this situation, it was understandable that she would need reassurance. I explained to them...

  6. PART TWO. LIVING IN OUR SKIN
    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 55-58)

      Notions of beauty change depending on social construction. These changes can be evocative, as with skin adornment, or disturbing, as with mutilation. Texture or color or decoration can enhance the features and earn acceptance from others, while other skin manipulations may allow people to be marginalized and stigmatized.

      During my over thirty years of clinical work, I have observed how people with abnormalities of the skin cope with daily living. I have treated patients with dozens of protuberant facial neurofibromas, spotted skin from widespread vitiligo, peeling and blistering skin from bullous disease, and socially devastating itch and scaling from psoriasis....

    • CHAPTER FIVE THE BLUE MAN
      (pp. 59-68)

      I had worked with Patty, the director of nursing at a convalescent home where I consulted, for many years. I had learned that she was not prone to histrionics. So when she asked me to come by and take a look at Mr. B, I knew his condition would be an authentic puzzler. What I couldn’t have anticipated was just how profoundly Mr. B would challenge notions of the relationship between our identities and our superficial appearance.

      “Dr. Norman, I don’t know how to explain this,” Patty began, “except to say that Mr. B has turned blue. He’s breathing normal....

    • CHAPTER SIX CRY WOLF
      (pp. 69-78)

      “Hello, Mary,” I said. “How have you been?”

      “Not so good,” she said, and handed me a sheet of paper.

      Mary looked at me, anxiously awaiting her chance to spill out all her aches, pains, and concerns. This dance between us was a familiar one. I had seen Mary many times over the last five years in my dermatology office. She was a mildly plump, fifty-five-year-old with a daughter who lived nearby. The previous time her chief complaint had been “itchy sores on my scalp.” During that visit, she told me she was compulsive, and kept scratching the sores until...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN STORIES ON THE SKIN
      (pp. 79-82)

      One spectacularly sunny Sunday in the end of March, I attended a “tattoofest” in a Tampa hotel. Outside a group of bikers and other attendees sat soaking up the sun. I entered tentatively, not knowing what to expect.

      At the check-in tables I picked up a magazine calledPrick,filled with ads for conventions and tattoo artists’ studios. A columnist, Chuck B, wrote, “Even the meanest-looking heavily tattooed characters out there are longing to be coddled, not hurt. Believe me, I know. So let’s all get together and have a big love fest.”

      Inside, I was surprised by what I...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT DOGGIE NIPPLES AND EXTRA EARS
      (pp. 83-92)

      Christie, a twenty-one-year-old, came to my office because, she said, “I have moles on my body that bug me.” She showed me a few on her neck and back, then shifted my attention to her abdomen.

      Below each of her breasts, in line with her areolas, were small dark nipples, each a bit less prominent than the ones that topped her breasts. “Oh yeah, my doggie nipples. I think they said my mom took some pill for morning sickness that may have affected me. It’s not that they bother me that much except they grew during my pregnancy.” She was...

    • CHAPTER NINE AT WAR WITH OUR SKIN
      (pp. 93-106)

      My patient, Brunelle, a fifty-four-year-old, told me her story.

      “I’m real stressed. I’m so stressed I get an irregular heartbeat. I’ve been to four doctors already for this problem and none of them said they can help me.”

      Before I could respond, she leaned forward and showed me her scalp.

      “I’ve had an infection in my scalp,” she said, moving toward my face. “That’s been going on more than two years and I’ve lost lots of my hair.” I examined her face and noted that large areas on her face appeared to be scratched. “I got bugs on my scalp...

    • CONCLUSION: THE FUTURE OF OUR SKIN
      (pp. 107-126)

      InSkin: A Natural History,Jablonski suggests that the functions and potential of skin will be expanded along at least three major frontiers in the next several decades, by a wide variety of constituencies.

      She describes the first frontier as an alteration of the biological functions of skin in order to treat specific diseases and injuries, largely driven by the work of specialists in gene therapy, molecular biology, pharmacology, and bioengineering. The second major frontier will, she says, focus on communication through and with innovations, such as implanted sensors and communication devices. In this realm, aesthetic innovations will generate new...

  7. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 127-130)
  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 131-139)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 140-140)