My Unexpected Journey from Doctor to Patient
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A young physician’s candid account of his harrowing experiences as a patient with a life-threatening illness. In 1996, Biro, at 31, had just completed his residency and joined his father’s Brooklyn dermatology practice when he was discovered to have paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation in bone marrow stem cells. His life, which he describes as having been filled with “too much good fortune,” abruptly turned around. Being a doctor gave him certain advantages: the ability to research his condition, to find and be seen by specialists quickly, to get test results more rapidly than most, to get a better hospital room. When his specialists disagreed about the best course of treatment, he was dismayed but fully understood his options, and when he opted for a bone marrow transplant, he did so knowledgeably. But medical knowledge can terrify, and he knew enough about his condition to be thoroughly frightened. Biro, who has a Ph.D. in literature from Oxford as well as an M.D. from Columbia, blends his fast-paced personal story with clear information about his particular medical condition and the therapeutic options. He lets the reader know a great deal about his close, occasionally overwhelming, and highly involved family—his youngest sister provided the bone marrow for his transplant—and their conflicts with his privacy-seeking wife, and he reveals his own fears, irritations, embarrassments, and disappointments. After radiation and chemotherapy, when he was too sick to write, excerpts from his parents’ diaries carry the story forward. In his final chapter, written in 1998, Biro takes a much too brief look at the ways his ordeal has changed him, and especially changed his attitude toward patients. While there’s no shortage of illness literature, a memoir by a person trained in both illness and literature is a welcome addition, especially when it openly explores as many aspects of the experience as this one. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-40715-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1999