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The anecdotes in this writing are entertaining. It seems that the author has has had a very interesting medical practice. I had no expectations going into this but after the first chapter I was hooked. I was intrigued by the author's ability to link classical writings to modern medical knowledge and practices. I would recommend this book and I will probably give it another listen at some point.
The reader's voice is pleasant and had a good pace.
35 of 36 people found this review helpful
Contrary to widely held beliefs, doctors are mere human beings. Most doctors are driven by a passion for helping patients, but some are more curious about diseases and chose their profession because they want to explore the human body. For the latter, helping patients is just part of the job. The brutally honest author of this book seems to belong in the latter category. He is impressed by the human body as a system or a machine. Dealing with the humans inhabiting those machines is just a necessity, albeit sometimes an interesting one.
This book describes a number of meetings between the author and patients suffering from a wide spectrum of diseases/problems. Sometimes the stories have happy endings; sometimes they end in death. As a reader, you get the feeling that the author is describing his encounters with the patient exactly as they happened, without trying to romanticize or diminish any details. In doing so, he comes across as very human.
In chapter four, for example, the reader is told the story of a woman who was afflicted with Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a disease which causes paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face, causing an asymmetrical, and consequently abnormal appearance to the extent that, in this particular case, the woman's’ children became scared of her. When the author first met her, he explained that Bell’s palsy usually goes away by itself (which is true) and that she shouldn’t worry. However, in this case, it did not go away. Instead, it got worse. Even with anti-inflammatory treatment, the palsy did not go away, and the patient seems to have suffered profoundly as a result. She did not, for example, go to work for several months. The second line of treatment, which the author admits to being sub-optimal, is to paralyze the other side of the face as well, using the celebrities favorite tool - botox. This treatment worked in the sense that the patient got a more symmetrical face and people around her did no longer react badly. I guess most books would have left it here - with a happy ending due to the ingenuity of medical science, but this book is not like that. The patient eventually decided she did not want the Botox injections, in part because she felt that not being able to express emotions with facial muscles seemed to reduce emotion. Also, the patient felt it was not her face following the botox. So, the patient decided to stop the botox and then simply live with her palsy. The main reason was apparent that the inability to use facial muscles to express emotions had a dimming effect on the emotions which the patient didn’t like. I suppose the kids got used to it.
There are many other stories, focused on all parts of the body in this book. Indeed the book starts with the head, working its way down to the feet. There are fascinating descriptions of brain surgery and what happens when you apply electricity onto the brain surface of an awake patient. Going further down there is a story about an elite member of society who came in with a dire problem - having a glass ketchup bottle stuck inside his large intestine.
I usually take notes when I read the book, but for this book I just sat back and enjoyed it. All in all, if you like short stories that are often quite unpredictable. And if you are fascinated by the human body and diseases that can afflict it. Then this book is an excellent choice.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful