Tag Archives: book review

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.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . And please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page.

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                              Dr. Aletha 

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The Point of It All, by Charles Krauthammer-a review

If you wondered why Pulitzer prize winning journalist Charles Krauthammer quit his medical career to write a political column for the Washington Post newspaper, you’ll learn the answer in his newest and sadly last book. He explained

“I left psychiatry to start writing…because I felt history happening outside the examining room door. I wanted to…because some things matter, some things need to be said, some things need to be defended.”

THE POINT OF IT ALL :
A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors

Dr. Charles Krauthammer died in 2018. In 2016 he started a new book but in 2017 was diagnosed with cancer. Treatment was initially successful, but multiple serious complications kept him hospitalized for many months during which he continued writing with his son Daniel’s and his wife Robyn’s help.

But the cancer recurred and this time further treatment would not be successful. We can thank Daniel for honoring his father’s dying wishes and finishing the book and facilitating the publication of The Point of It All.

Daniel wrote a helpful introduction to the book, explaining how it was put together. He also offered some personal reflections about his relationship with his father, and some insight into Dr. Krauthammer’s character and personality that he tended to keep private.

“My father’s writing…is not just thought-provoking but also feeling-provoking. His writing opens the mind, combining passion with intelligence, beauty with concreteness. “

(This post contains affiliate links which, by paying a commission if used for a purchase, help fund this blog. )

Book outline

The book collects some of Dr. Krauthammer’s Washington Post columns, transcripts of speeches he gave, and text of a book on foreign policy that he was writing but had not published.

Most casual readers of Krauthammer will want to read Part I-People, where he discusses such diverse topics as

  • Ronald Reagan
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Australia
  • Memorials
  • Chess and Sports
  • The space program
  • Medicine
  • Part II -Man and Society
  • Part III-Politics, Foreign and Domestic
  • Part IV-Competing Visions-America’s Role and the Course of World History
  • Part V-Speaking in the First Person


You can read the book straight through, or skip around, reading whatever chapter titles catch your attention. It was hard for me to pass up titles like

  • Why I love Australia
  • Man vs. Computer:Still a Match
  • Pluto and Us
  • They Die with Their Right On
  • Thought Police on Patrol
  • Just Leave Christmas Alone
  • The Climate Pact Swindle
  • Beauty and Soul

My favorite part of this book was the shortest-Part V, the few essays he wrote about himself, something Daniel said he didn’t like to do and would not have included.

“I’ve never wanted to make myself the focus of my career.”

And so in Beauty and Soul, he credits his wife of over 40 years with his success.

Her (Robyn’s) beauty and soul have sustained me these many years. I was merely the scribe.

Dr. Krauthammer, upon accepting a writing award

THE POINT OF IT ALL-A BOOK REVIEW

As a physician, I am intrigued and inspired knowing  Dr. Krauthammer completed medical school and residency after and despite sustaining a spinal cord injury which caused quadriplegia (paralysis from the neck down, preventing use of his arms and legs).   (This no doubt made his treatment and recovery from cancer surgery all the more difficult.) 

According to his son Daniel, his father also did not like to publicize or dwell on his or anyone else’s disability. He preferred to focus on what he could do, not on what he couldn’t do.

This excerpt is from a Washington Post column that is included in this book.

After watching videos in which  The price of fetal parts was discussed over lunch, Dr. Krauthammer wrote

“Abortion critics have long warned that the problem is not only the obvious — what abortion does to the fetus — but also what it does to us.

It’s the same kind of desensitization that has occurred in the Netherlands with another mass exercise in life termination: assisted suicide. It began as a way to prevent the suffering of the terminally ill. It has now become so widespread and wanton that one-fifth of all Dutch assisted-suicide patients are euthanized without their explicit consent.

ultrasound image of a 4 month old fetus
a prenatal ultrasonographic image of fetus at the four-month point in its gestation; public domain image used courtesy of the CDC/ Jim Gathany

There is more division about the first trimester because one’s views of the early embryo are largely a matter of belief, often religious belief.

One’s view of the later-term fetus, however, is more a matter of what might be called sympathetic identification — seeing the image of a recognizable human infant and, now, hearing from the experts exactly what it takes to “terminate” its existence.

The role of democratic politics is to turn such moral sensibilities into law. This is a moment to press relentlessly for a national ban on late-term abortions.”

THINGS THAT MATTER: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics

My review of his memoir THINGS THAT MATTER has been one of my most viewed posts. If you haven’t read it I recommend it also.

Charles Krauthammer-THINGS THAT MATTER

I enjoyed listening to  Dr. Krauthammer’s memoir THINGS THAT MATTER: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics  

This book is a collection of  his more memorable opinion pieces as well as a memoir of his life, including medical school, his life-changing injury, psychiatric medical practice, his  journalism career, hobbies (chess and baseball) and life with his family.

A life with no regrets

Dr. Krauthammer wrote his last piece for The Washington Post barely two weeks before his death and that post concludes his final book. Dr. Krauthammer wrote,

“I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

Thanks for reviewing the thoughts and feelings of the late Charles Krauthammer with me. Please share your reactions to Dr. Krauthammer’s work and share this post with your friends.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . And please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page.

Thanks for exploring 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.

                              Dr. Aletha