This has been an interesting extra-read for me, spotted on one of the book bargain sites last week. I am always interested in the workings of the brain and what can go wrong and expected to perhaps just pick and choose those chapters here and there that interested me most. However I was surprised to power right through the whole book as each section was equally interesting.
Dr Allan Ropper(the author) comes across as the doctor we would all want to have if the chips were down. He seems very approachable and concerned for his patients on the basic, human level as well as treating their illnesses.
This neurologist deals with the diseases we have heard of such as stroke and motor-neurone disease and Parkinson’s and also other conditions that often seem to mimic these diseases and, as such, can be more difficult to diagnose in an environment that is also, often, quite time critical. Indeed (putting aside the grouchy nature and limp) I could almost imagine the author as Dr House, laying out the facts, examining them with razor-sharp accuracy and coming to his conclusions.
But this book tells real stories, some of them awe inspiring both from the point of view of the dedicated hospital staff and the courageous patients. Some are simply heartbreaking. Some patients present with bizarre symptoms as the brain struggles to function normally. Through it all Dr Ropper talks about how vital it is that doctors listen to their patients. Having gone through such a situation with a close family member I would say that this is what patients want most, to be really heard in an atmosphere where they don’t feel hurried or pressured. It was good to hear this doctor’s words on that particular aspect of consultation.
There is a brief and interesting section about Michael J Fox, a very high profile Parkinson’s sufferer and massive fund raiser, but Dr Ropper’s patients seem to come from all walks of life.
This is a very frank, sobering, heart warming and, at times, heart breaking account of working in this very specialised field of medicine. I am glad that I read it.