PATIENT: The True Story of a Rare Illness by Ben Watt
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PATIENT: The True Story of a Rare Illness

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Down for the count in his prime, now back on tour minus most of his small intestine and much of his body weight, a remarkably centered rock singer/songwriter chronicles his affliction with restraint and wry pluck in unbuttoned, conversational British. After months in the hospital, the ultimate diagnosis--of an extremely rare autoimmune syndrome that ravages blood vessels and leads to critical organ damage--matters less than Watt's experience of the ordeal and its strength-conferring lesson: ""I felt I had the scoop on life and death and everyone else was still running around after it."" Pain was unremitting--from the disease, the tests, the surgeries, the treatments and inevitable side effects, the lines and the tubes and the needles that antagonized his sluggish veins. Pleasure was the luxury of a piss without the catheter, the tremendous contentment of a shower. Watt observed his acculturation to hospitalism: One day while vomiting radioactive orange juice after a scan, ""the invisible thread that had been tying me to home . . . had slackened. I became interested only in making things bearable for the next twenty minutes""; and elsewhere, with typical compression, ""weather is for other people."" When there was room in the isolation of Watt's crucible, Tracey--the female half of his band and his household--faithfully anchored him. Watt emerged from the worst of his affliction with a more resonant singing voice, a new face in the mirror (which he regarded respectfully, ""impressed by the patience I saw there""), and a drastically foreshortened gut still prone to ""lock up"" every few weeks despite his adherence to a bizarre diet enhanced by steroids and immunosuppressants. In conclusion, ""It doesn't do to dwell on my bad luck . . . but it takes time to round it into the good times."" Time plus the wisdom acquired in extremis and leavened by native aplomb. In both its graphic and reflective modes, this is resilient, just-so reporting.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0802135838
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Grove