A man who grew two breasts – a young man’s nearly successful suicide by placebo – a connection between pigs and pacifiers – a woman’s three years of diarrhea – a woman who became paralyzed each time she was pregnant. These are not embellished stories ripped from the tabloids. They (and several other equally bizarre stories) are real, and baffling, medical mysteries shared by Dr. Clifton K. Meador in his audio book True Medical Detective Stories.
A longtime medical professional as well as an author, Dr. Meador was inspired to write this book by one of his childhood heroes, New Yorker medical writer Berton Roueche, who earlier penned a different set of medical mysteries, even including one that involved Dr. Meador.
According to the author, the field of medicine mimics detective work in many ways. The goal, he says, is not just to name a disease, but to find its root cause. Sometimes, that’s obvious, but in many other situations, it requires digging, researching, or confessions by patients or relatives to establish the true cause of the symptoms that don’t fit a pattern or make sense at all.
Some of the cases he reveals present themselves with a fever – pneumonia – bruises – diarrhea – weakness – all fairly standard ailments with an equally standard list of possible diseases as the cause. But what makes the book “fun” (if disease can be fun) is that the typical medical rulebook is inevitably thrown out the window in each case. And the true causes are nothing short of incredible.
What works especially well with True Medical Detective Stories is the narrative of the book by James H. Kiser. His voice lends an additional human touch to the stories. The length of each tale seems to be perfect (though one does veer off the course with a bit too much of a technical explanation of botulism). One word of caution when listening to the book: a clever device to separate one story from the next is a snappy 40s-style detective or noir musical bridge. But beware the volume. It’s fairly intense for some reason, and can catch one off guard each time. Without a doubt, the technique of the music works, but it’s just a bit too loud. So turn the volume down one notch before beginning the book.
Readers (listeners) fascinated by medicine will certainly enjoy this book. But it will appeal to fans of the mystery/detective genre, too. Best of all, the stories are not fiction – they are truth.
Published simultaneously on http://www.bookpleasures.com.