An ALS patient offers advice for coping with a devastating illness.
Dunsky (Common Sense Is Not All That Common, 2015), a physician, has been living with ALS —amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—for seven years. Once he accepted his diagnosis (not an easy process, as he admits), he set about learning as much as possible about his condition so that he could “live with ALS while maintaining as good a quality of life as possible.” Now, he’s sharing what he’s learned with others. The resulting book contains the kind of comprehensive, detailed information people facing a terminal illness need in order to make educated decisions about their treatment and care. In 75 short chapters he covers everything from the mechanisms of the disease to treatment options to decisions about end-of-life care, always maintaining a positive yet realistic tone. One of his first tasks is to reassure readers that an ALS diagnosis does not have to mean total disability is imminent, though “life will change dramatically as symptoms of weakness and paralysis advance.” With that in mind, Dunsky strongly recommends a proactive approach to disease management. Patients should inform themselves about the likely course of ALS, make decisions while they are still able to do so, and be willing to accept interventions, such as motorized wheelchairs or breathing devices, rather than resisting the need for assistance. He also goes into detail about the nitty-gritty issues that will affect people with ALS, from choosing comfortable clothing to finding the right bed. Dunsky is a doctor (though his specialty is unrelated to ALS), and occasionally his language might be a bit technical for a lay reader unfamiliar with terms like “neural cellular metabolism” and “neurotrophic factors,” which aren’t always adequately explained. And while his discussion of the financial aspects of managing an ALS diagnosis is welcome, more information for people who lack the means to make expensive renovations to their homes or afford high-end medical equipment would be useful. But those minor faults are more than balanced out by Dunsky’s sensitive, practical advice.
A thorough, thoughtful resource for people facing a life-altering health situation.