Category Archives: Diseases, Injuries, and Dying

True health stories-3 medical memoirs that share the HEART of health

I read lots of books for my own pleasure and to review for this blog. Although health/medicine can be a genre in itself, many different types of books and media can illustrate medical science.

Some are fiction including drama, comedy, and often science fiction. One I have reviewed here is

Say Goodbye for Now.

SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW- A Novel
SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Most however are non-fiction. One in this category that I reviewed relates medical history.

Pandemic by Sonia Shah
PANDEMIC BY SONIA SHAH

Pandemic

Medical writers often explain medical conditions, offer information on treatment options, give advice, and encourage healthy habits. One of these is

Mind Over Meds

MIND OVER MEDS- book cover
MIND OVER MEDS BY ANDREW WEIL, MD

But as helpful and interesting as these are, I think the best medical books are those about real people who face real health challenges that are often life changing or even life threatening. There is nothing like experiencing a serious illness or injury to make you an expert about it.

And when the person with the problem writes or tells the story, we don’t just learn about it, we feel the emotions it provokes also.

Share your story

I have reviewed several of these “medical memoirs” here and will likely continue to do so. In a way, we are all living our own health journeys and many of you could offer reflections on how you and your family deal with your unique medical challenges.

If you are willing to share the perspectives you have gained through a health issue or medical experience, contact me; I would love to read it, and maybe share it here with my other readers. Your remarks may remain anonymous if you prefer.

Explore these “medical memoirs” with me.

The Best of Us

A Memoir

by Joyce Maynard

Ms. Maynard’s story opened with a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers. Equally sad was her telling of a complicated  and ultimately failed adoption attempt.

Finally she and we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As Ms. Maynard  writes,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed. You may read an excerpt at this link

The Best of Us-Chapter 1

Tears of Salt

A Doctor’s Story

by Pietro Bartolo; Lidia Tilotta

Dr. Pietro Bartolo practices medicine on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, known for its friendly people, sunny skies, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters famous for fishing, seems an idyllic place to live, work, and visit.

But for the past 20 years, Dr.Bartolo has cared for not just residents and tourists, but for hundreds of refugees- people who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean from northern Africa, fleeing poverty and political unrest. The lucky ones land on shore injured and sick. The unlucky ones wash ashore dead, having died en route or drowning after falling from a capsized or wrecked boat, sometimes only a few feet from shore.

In this memoir, Dr. Bartolo shares the stories of many of these people, giving them the names and faces that we don’t see watching news stories about the refugee crisis. He also shares his own life story of growing up on the island, leaving for medical school, and returning to raise a family and to practice medicine.

Dr. Bartolo’s story was also told in the documentary film FIRE AT SEA

He never expected to become the front-line help for hundreds of desperate people. With no specific training on how to manage an avalanche of desperate, sick, and injured refugees, and with little resources, he manages to put together a system for triaging, evaluating, and treating these people, then sending them on for more advanced medical care or to immigration centers in Europe.

For the less fortunate, he serves as medical examiner, to determine the cause of death for those who do not make it to Lampedusa alive; sometimes taking body parts to extract DNA to identify them, so families can be notified. He states he has never grown comfortable to this aspect of his job.

As a physician myself, I marvel at Dr. Bartolo’s caring and commitment to people who will never be able to repay him for his sacrifice. He approaches his work as a mission of mercy, and treats every person with the utmost respect, no matter their circumstance. Some of the people he treats become almost like family; he has even tried to adopt a couple of orphaned children but cannot due to legalities.

Dr. Bartolo’s story reads like a conversation. I think you will like him, and admire him for his dedication and selfless service.  His life should encourage all of us to consider what we can each do to lessen someone else’s suffering.

Follow this link to my review of

Love conquers fear-a memoir of hope

The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness and Peace

I received a free digital or paper copy of these books in return for posting a frank review on my blog and/or social media.

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explore the HEART of health with me

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here.

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                              Dr. Aletha 

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How common meds can hurt your skin

In a previous post I told you how smoking and sunlight affect our skin- premature aging, dryness, and increased risk of skin cancer. Here is a link for you to review or read if you missed it.

How smoking and sun affect your skin’s look and feel

Layers of the Skin diagram

Here is a review of the skin’s layers

Medications and skin -help and harm

In this post I’ll talk about ways medications can adversely affect skin health.

Medications, both prescription and over the counter, can relieve symptoms, hasten healing, and save lives. Even so, adverse reactions are always a risk with any drug. Some of these adverse reactions can involve the skin.

So it is vital that patients and doctors avoid unnecessary or inappropriate use of medications.

Sun sensitivity due to medication

As mentioned in the previous post , some medications can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure, called drug-induced photosensitivity.

Any drug can cause a reaction, even if you have taken it before without a problem. Some of the more common “skin reaction drugs” include

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, the NSAIDs
  • Psychiatric medications
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Blood pressure lowering meds
  • Antibiotics
  • Statins-cholesterol lowering drugs

Reactions can vary from scaly rashes, blisters, redness, dryness, itching, to severe eruptions all over the body that can be painful and occasionally life threatening.

This is what your skin looks like under a powerful microscope.

Melasma-drug induced skin color change

Melasma (muh-LAZ-muh) is a common skin problem. It causes brown to gray-brown patches, usually on the face. It is much more common in women, probably because it is triggered by female hormones, so it often starts in pregnancy. Women of color are also more susceptible.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Melasma can be caused by

  • Sun exposure
  • Hormone medications-birth control pills, post -menopause hormonal therapy

Here is an excellent discussion and photos of melasma from the American Academy of Dermatology

Use antibiotics wisely for your skin’s sake

Probably the most common drugs that cause a rash or other adverse effects are antibiotics, probably because they are used so often. A

Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, sulfa, tetracycline, and ciprofloxacin can cause several skin reactions .

  • urticaria, also known as hives
  • photosensitivity, mentioned above
  • a scaley rash that may peel off
  • a measles-like rash, called morbiliform
  • blisters

So doctors prescribe antibiotics only for infections that are serious enough that the risk of adverse reaction is worth the possible benefit.

Colds,  flu, and bronchitis are caused by viruses and don’t respond to antibiotics. Even sinus and ear infections don’t always need an antibiotic to resolve. Please don’t pressure your doctor for an antibiotic when you don’t need it. Read more about antibiotic misuse at my previous post

How to navigate the antibiotic highway

6 smart facts about antibiotic use
graphic created by the Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov

The American Academy of Dermatology shares

10 skin care secrets for healthier skin

What you should and shouldn’t do now

Please understand I am not saying we should never use these medications as sometimes they are the best choice for our overall health. You should be aware of the potential for reactions and report them promptly to your doctor if they occur.

If you are taking any of the drugs listed here, do not stop without talking to your doctor.

Coming soon-more skin care tips

In a future post I’ll look at common skin injuries and how to help injured skin heal.

Thanks for joining me to explore skin problems and the HEART of health. Even if it’s winter where you live, don’t forgo sunscreen; the sun doesn’t take a holiday from damaging skin.

Please share this post and follow Watercress Words where we explore and share the HEART of health.

                              Dr. Aletha 

a cute monkey checks out his face in a mirrow
We all care about our appearance, including this cute monkey. Photo by Andre Mouton on Pexels.com