LIFE AND DEATH ON 10 WEST by Eric Lax

LIFE AND DEATH ON 10 WEST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An observer's moving account of a bone-marrow transplant ward--drawing a solid connection between the worlds of patient care and medical research. Lax spent seven months visiting the UCLA Medical Center unit where patients with leukemia (in which the bone marrow is malignant) are treated by receiving marrow transplants from related donors: this dangerous procedure is considered to have a 50 percent success/survival rate; the alternative is almost-certain death from leukemia. From interviews with patients, nurses, physicians, and researchers, Lax is able to show how government research grants, scientific laboratories, and medical investigations are translated into care of the individual patient--the UCLA set-up, with research and patient facilities close together, made his task easier. And by letting himself become involved with patients and their families, Lax sees the daily, human struggle against the disease. His main patient story is heartbreaking--about 26-year-old Linda, who was 6 months pregnant when she was diagnosed as having leukemia. Rather than have an abortion and begin leukemia treatments immediately (these are toxic to a fetus), Linda waited for several weeks to give her baby the best chance for survival, and then delivered her normally: Linda's wish was to leave a part of herself behind if she should die. After her daughter was born, Linda sailed through the severe chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments (Lax, distraught, writes of the latter: ""I've just watched someone have a neutron bomb dropped on her""); she had a successful marrow transplant from her sister. Then, suddenly, shortly before she was to be discharged, Linda developed pneumonia and within a matter of days was dead--in spite of being well, optimistic, and cheerful nearly to the end. Lax doesn't trumpet any messages or plead any causes: instead, his account offers a quiet tribute to the patients above all, and to the nurses and doctors who care for them amidst the uncertainty and controversy that surround experimental treatments.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1984
Publisher: Times Books