By Joel Havemann Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002 Review by S. V. Swamy on Jun 25th 2003
A Life Shaken: My Encounter with Parkinson's Disease by Joel Havemann is an
excellent and comprehensive introduction to one of the most disabling diseases,
Parkinson's. The symptoms creep in slowly and the initial diagnosis is not
always easy. With his background as a journalist (reporter and editor) and as a
victim of this disease, Joel Havemann brings all his reporting and analytical
skills to good use in writing an eminently readable account of the disease. It
is just what the doctor prescribed!
The book is very well structured and gives a very
lucid account of the disease, its symptoms, progress, and treatment. The style
is good and fortunately the author takes a fairly objective and analytical look
at the disease and his own future. The choice of treatment methods is naturally
biased in favor of the modern medical system. The treatment regarding
alternative therapies is scant and is somewhat biased. That is not surprising
given the background of the patient. However even Havemann admits that strong
faith has helped many of the patients to cope with the devastating effects of
the disease and the medicines used to treat the symptoms. He is lucky to have
had such a supporting family. Those who are less fortunate probably derive the
strength needed from the Universal Presence, called variously God, Allah,
Parkinson's Disease is classified among the
degenerative diseases of the brain (and so the mind). Alzheimer's, Dementia
etc. are others among many. I wish the book had also dealt with some
differentiation of those disorders (how Parkinson's differs say from
Alzheimer's). I also wish that a more comprehensive treatment of the
alternative therapies available was attempted.
The book will certainly go a long way in educating
the patients and their families and will also help the doctors to save their
time, since many of the frequently asked questions have been answered
adequately. The glossary at the end is certainly an useful addition.
A book by Judy Havemann, the spouse of Joel
Havemann, with possible collaboration of their children, would be a welcome
addition, since the emotional trauma and the stress faced by the family members
of a Parkinson's patient have been dealt with too briefly. May be Dr. Reich of
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will prod the family of one of his
other patients to write on this sensitive topic.
This book is certainly recommended as a good
addition to all health professionals, Parkinson's patients and their families,
I would strongly urge that an electronic version of
the book may be provided on the internet so that the progress of Joel Havemann
can be chronicled and also any breakthroughs in treatment can be added.