An intriguing memoir that provides an eye-opening perspective on institutionalized medicine.




In her debut memoir, a psychiatrist learns important lessons about physical and mental well-being while dealing with her own illness.

At one point in Carmichael’s engrossing book, she stresses the importance of “finding the right story—that is, understanding the connection between physical symptoms and responses to stress and anxiety,” and this balanced, holistic approach informs the work as a whole. Her own medical odyssey began when she was 30 years old and pregnant with her first child. She noticed a strange tingling in her legs but simply marked it down to her pregnancy. She did the same thing two years later, during her second pregnancy, when she experienced numbness. (“Strange how you can be so wise and fool yourself at the same time,” she writes.) Other symptoms came and went, and she ignored them, until 10 years after the initial symptoms, when it became obvious that something was seriously wrong. After she received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, she began to notice a split between facts and emotions that she explores throughout this book: “While the neurologist looked so pleased at making the diagnosis,” she writes, “he did not seem to notice or care that I was emotionally devastated.” This disconnect prompted Carmichael to explore the psychological aspects of chronic pain and disease, starting with her own. “In retrospect, I can see that I was depressed, but I did not know that then,” she writes. “I could not sleep through the night and had difficulty concentrating, but all I knew was that I felt numb inside.” Using a combination of historical overviews and individual case studies, she effectively illuminates the value of understanding the emotional elements of a patient’s battle with chronic pain. Overall, she effectively points out the personal, almost spiritual, aspects of chronic care, while also stressing the need for more empathy on the part of doctors.

An intriguing memoir that provides an eye-opening perspective on institutionalized medicine.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1479230402

Page Count: 242

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.



Self-help guide for diabetes sufferers, mostly in question-and-answer format, with an emphasis on helping racial and ethnic minority diabetics.

Coleman is a pharmacist with a doctorate in her specialty, Gavin a Ph.D. and M.D. Aside from acknowledgments and a foreword signed by Gavin alone, their voices and expertise are indistinguishable, offering lucid, simple solutions for diabetes patients. Gavin relates watching his great-grandmother endure debilitating pain as a result of diabetes while he visited her as a youngster. He remembers hearing adults mention that sugar killed her, and he wondered how something that tasted sweet could cause so much harm. As an adult, he realized that his great-grandmother's affliction could be controlled through treatment. The authors focus on Type 2 diabetes, the most common form in minority populations. An estimated 18.2 million Americans are diabetic, with perhaps 5 million unaware of their situation. About 11 percent of U.S. diabetics are African-American, and about 8 percent are Latino. The question-and-answer format begins with an overview section about diabetes, with an emphasis on risk factors. Section Two covers management of the disease, including nutrition, exercise, blood-testing, oral medications and insulin use. In addition, the authors continually recommend smoking cessation, as well as instructing patients on the readiness of self-treatment. Section Three explains the complications—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease—that could arise if the condition remains untreated or treated ineffectively. The questions in all of the sections are worded simply, and the answers are usually free of medical jargon. Though the sudden shifts in tone and voice are occasionally jarring, the writing remains clear enough to distill the facts. The real downside here, though: patronizing, laughable illustrations that degrade the overall product.

Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2004

ISBN: 0-9746948-0-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

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