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Review of "A Life Shaken"

By Joel Havemann
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002
Review by S. V. Swamy on Jun 25th 2003
A Life Shaken

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, Iswara etc.

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, friends etc.

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.


© 2003 S. V. Swamy


S. V. Swamy, India.

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