2016 Convention Feature: Coding Edgar Allan Poe

edgar-allan-poeOne of the greatest mystery and horror writers of all time, Edgar Allan Poe, is buried just a few blocks from the Baltimore Convention Center. Author of famous poems like “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” as well as short stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Poe excelled in channeling the darkest depths of the gothic and macabre. A tortured writer haunted by a difficult life (and death), Poe rarely spared the subjects of his writings from these same misfortunes. The maladies and intentional physical harm bestowed upon Poe’s characters would disturb even the bravest coding professional assigned to document them.

With Halloween looming, and to celebrate Baltimore’s most famous writer, below is an exercise in coding the injuries and deaths suffered in some of Poe’s most famous works.

Poem: “Annabel Lee”

I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea,

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

  I and my Annabel Lee—

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven

 Coveted her and me.

wind-illustrationAnd this was the reason that, long ago,

  In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

  And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.

Code: Pneumonia—J18.9

Poem: “The Raven”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

 But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—

ravenPerched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—

 Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

 

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

Quoth the Raven: “Nevermore.”

Codes:

Hallucinations—R44.3

Psychosis—F29

Short Story: “The Tell-Tale Heart”

heart-illustrationSummary: An unnamed narrator suffering from “over-acuteness of the senses” insists to the reader he is sane despite smothering and dismembering his roommate—an old man with an evil “vulture-eye” that the narrator has become obsessed with. The old man’s screams during the murder summons the police, but not before the narrator hides the body under the floorboards. After questioning the narrator the police are oblivious to the murder—he’s gotten away with it! But as the police make chitchat the narrator starts to hear the ever-loudening, violent beating of the old man’s heart under the floorboards. Sure the police hear it too, the narrator breaks down and tears open the floorboards, confessing to the crime.

Codes:

Obsessive-compulsion disorder—F42.8

Corneal Ulcer—H16.009

Assault by hanging, strangulation and suffocation—T71.163

Nervous breakdown—F48.8

Short Story: “The Cask of Amontillado”

spilling-red-wine-bottleSummary: After Montresor is once again insulted by his “friend” Fortunato, he decides to enact gruesome revenge. Montresor preys on Fortunato’s claim of being a wine connoisseur by getting him drunk during Carnival and then leading him into his “wine cellar”—which is actually the Italian catacombs—to sample the rarest wine in his collection. Though struggling to breathe in the damp and musty catacombs due to a lung condition, Fortunato blindly follows Montresor, stumbling deep into the tunnel without suspicion due to his severe intoxication. About to pass out from drunkenness, Fortunato is quickly chained to the wall of the tunnel in a shallow niche by Montresor. Montresor then pulls bricks and mortar hidden among the catacomb bones and slowly walls up the niche, entombing Fortunato alive. Before placing the last stone, Montresor throws a burning torch into the tomb and mocks Fortunato’s pleas for mercy.

Codes:

Very severe alcohol intoxication—F10.129

Asthma—J45.909

Assault by other specified means—Y08.89XA

Death from asphyxiation—T71.29XA*

 (Or, if that didn’t do it:)

Death from severe dehydration—E86.0*

*Note: These codes don’t cover the “death,” but just the conditions. The death is covered in the discharge disposition of the encounter

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