Books by Tom Andrews

CODEINE DIARY by Tom Andrews
Released: Feb. 2, 1998

A fall on the ice sends hemophiliac Andrews (Creative Writing/Purdue Univ.) to the hospital with a fractured ankle and a serious ``bleed.'' In the tradition of A Whole New Life by Reynolds Price, this journal of recuperation and memory alternates between the sweetly sad and the pungently funny. Poet Andrews echoes Alice James's remark ``How well one has to be, to be ill!'' ``Negotiating hemophilia'' meant, for him, facing it by daring it. To the dismay of his parents and a series of hematologists, he raced motorcycles, competed in skateboard events, and played in a punk-rock band. With his brother, John, on dialysis for kidney disease, he ``was the healthy child in the house.'' While John's death in 1980 haunts this memoir, Andrews's mother provides a counterpoint when she brings to the hospital his scrapbook from 1972, when Andrews, at age 11, made The Guinness Book of World Records by handclapping nonstop for 14´ hours. He intersperses headlines, correspondence, and excerpts from journal entries on that seemingly frivolous episode with moving recollections of his brotherly love, guilt, and ambivalence. Looming large over this memoir is every hemophiliac's nightmare: ``90 percent of hemophiliacs who had repeated infusions between 1978 and early 1985 carry HIV.'' The alternative to infusions is to allow a bleed to run its course ``and risk permanent crippling or even death.'' While things have improved with high-tech blood- clotting agents, Andrews notes that because hemophilia is still rare in the US—fewer than 20,000 diagnosed cases—most emergency- room doctors are simply unaware of the procedures for administering the synthetic agents. Andrews carries in his wallet a detailed letter of instructions from his hematologist. In this memoir, an excerpt of which appeared in Harper's, Andrews manages a nice balance of clinical detail and painful memory with wry humor. Read full book review >