Personal Review of “Life in the Balance” by Thomas Graboys, M.D. with Peter Zheutlin

Life in the Balance

A Physician's Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss with Parkinson's Disease and Dementia

Today I thought I would write a little bit about the book “Life in the Balance” written by Thomas Graboys, M.D. with Peter Zheutlin.

I must remind myself that I am not an expert professional book reviewer. The following is strictly my personal opinion seen through the eyes of another physician. I am fully aware that many will disagree with me.

The thought that leaped at me as I read the book was the tone rather than the content of his writing. It is a book of his memoirs which permits him to express himself in anyway he chooses. Dr. Graboys and Peter Zheutlin are direct and honest.

They nicely describe part of his background of being in a boarding school, part of his college days and his love of sports. The description of the Boston medical community is superb! There is a pervasive belief among physicians that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions). The sense of self-importance seems to reign high as well as the need to be recognized as superior and successful. They tend to avoid their weaknesses and work hard for prolonged periods of time under colossal fears of failure, anxieties, expectancies and stress. I have attended many medical conferences in Boston. The majority of the speakers and lecturers appear to require excessive admiration. It appears that they give off a false sense of modesty. These characteristics are also seen in other medical communities around the country as well as in many physicians working in the private sectors, perhaps to a lesser degree. When discussing these leading experts, many physicians attending the meetings would refer to them as “snobs” and as being pretentious.

As a psychiatrist, I highly suspect that this is a defense mechanism to skirt their feelings of flaws, shortcomings and imperfections. I ask myself, “Are they ever satisfied with themselves?” Part of me feels sorry for them for having to maintain the status quo. Their internal naggings must be considerably excruciating.

Beginning with the forward, there seems to be a bright portrayal of Dr. Graboys being the “perfect” physician. A godlike physician on a pedestal. Having an “Ozzie and Harriet” like family. However, to his credit, Dr. Graboys openly discusses his insecurities and his strong sense of pride, e.g., not easily being able to tell others in public that he has Parkinson’s disease which results in embarrassment as he fumbles with his hands or stumbles as he walks. Many people see these as weaknesses but I sense Dr. Graboys is attempting to turn them into his friends and strengths as he grapples with the devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body dementia.

He has an illusive style of teaching. Although he aptly describes Parkinson’s disease there seems to be a paucity of details of his probable Lewy Body symptoms.

He has a phenomenal support system and credit must be given to his wife and his family. He also has a strong support system with friends and professional colleagues. He clearly refuses to surrender to the painful effects of his disease. He is honest with his feelings. I like his self sensitivity as well as his profound sensitivity for others. He has not given up and perseveres daily to maintain a sense of balance and of well being.

Why does he continue to drive? Why does he put himself and others at risk? Even if he is driving only short distances. Why does he continue to go to his office? Perhaps it is to help preserve his sense of self and sense of importance. Something we all need. Even though he may not be prudent in driving a car given the severity of his symptomatology, I applaud him for exploring many other avenues of daily living. Spinning seems to soothe him intensely. Forcing himself to continue to socialize and going to parties is an asset even though difficult to do.

His ponderings and reflections on marriage, friendships, love and children enlighten me on how important they are. Something which many of us take for granted. The ongoing ruminating description, however, tended to bore me. I had to put the book down too many times. Not because of the content of the book but because of the lack of movement and provocation for me. Dr. Graboys suggests that he is able to live one day at a time. However, I did not feel uplifted with hope by the time I finished reading the book.

Overall, the book is a persuasive and heartrending depiction of a physician who disallows his illness to pilfer his joy and dignity.

 

Please feel free to post a comment.

 

David

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My to Do List on Reading Books — Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia and Other Dementias

 

Today I am reading and reviewing books on Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) and all other types of dementia.

"Life in the Balance"I’m currently reading “Life in the Balance” by Thomas Graboys, MD. Although it is not a thick book, I am having difficulty reading it. Not because I can’t concentrate on it. Maybe because of the emotions it is invoking in me. My feelings range between anger, pity, empathy, sorrow, sadness and respect. None of these really stand out. But they are there nonetheless. It is one of those books that I can only digest a few pages at a time and then I need to put it down. I will figure those feelings out though. I certainly has taken courage for Dr. Graboys to speak out so graphically and profoundly. Keep it up, Dr. Graboys!

Could it be Dementia?

Could it be Dementia?

What a pleasant surprise! I received a complimentary copy of the book “Could it be Dementia“? authored by Louise Morse and Roger Hitchings. I’ve only perused it briefly but it promises to be a practical yet powerful book which offers hope for those affected by dementia. The reviews look spectacular! This book insists that losing your mind doesn’t mean losing your soul. “Perhaps the greatest encouragement, for residents and carers alike, is seeing the Holy Spirit at work in His people,” say Louise and Roger. “In a worship meeting, someone who normally does not speak will unexpectedly pray the most cogent, appropriate prayer. In countless other ways the Holy Spirit is seen to be present with God’s precious ‘aged pilgrims’.” This book offers information and reassurance gleaned from the extensive experience of Pilgrim Homes, a foundation going back to 1807 that has helped and cared for thousands of elderly people.

Another sighting is from Helene Moore who wrote “Behind the Mask.” It is just another of many books which I’ve come across online which seem invaluable for readers. Now it’s a matter of finding the time to read them all!

Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask

 

              Warmly,

              David

Sunday November 2, 2008

 

The 60th today. A quiet sunny fall day today opening birthday presents from Pam and Chad. Thank you both!

 

Stunned! How did I miss it? Used to be on top of this stuff. It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized that the end of Daylight Saving Time was this weekend. I thought it was last week. Since the computer and my atomic wrist watch automatically change time in the spring and fall, I just thought I was adjusting well last Sunday with the change of time. I still can’t believe it. It might not seem a big deal to a lot of people but to go a whole week thinking the clocks had been changed. I’d like to just chalk it up to getting older. And maybe that’s all it is. Just a trick my brain played on me. But no use in analyzing it too much…it happened and I’ll move on.

 

Today is the big 60 for me. My first birthday which I am aware that I have Lewy Body Disease. Last year after the diagnosis, I just don’t remember at all. But I still emotionally feel like I’m in my 40s. My brother, Paul, and his wife, Sharon, came to visit us yesterday along with my niece, Tasha. Paul is an Assembly of God Minister in Beaver Falls, PA. and Sharon is the Coordinator for the Women’s Missionary Council for the Pennsylvania-Delaware Assembly of God District. Tasha just graduated from Central Bible College. (Hey…any single guys out there looking for a beautiful red-head!!?? But you have to go through me first. Smile, smile.) And Nick, my nephew, is the Pastor of Church Planting & Development at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA. Thanks you guys! You are the 2nd to visit our new little retirement home. Tash, thanks for the game, Apples to Apples. I never heard of the game before but playing it was a great way to spend an afternoon with family on a nice fall day. For some reason, even with family, I felt embarrassed and little ashamed whenever I had a little trouble getting a piece of turkey off the main plate. Just whenever I think the tremors are gone, they quickly and surprisingly take me off guard.

 

And yes. My birthday wish was for a copy of Dr. Thomas Graboys’ book, “Life in the Balance.” It is about a physician’s memoir of life, love and loss with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. I can’t wait to start reading it today. Thanks, Pammie!! I have to be truthful. I am excited to read Dr. Graboys’ book but at the same time I think I’m dreading to feel many of the emotions which will creep in as I read the book. I suspect it’s one of these readings that I’ll have to put down and pick up frequently. But I’m ready. It’ll be another growing experience.

 

I used to think 60 was very very old. Of course, now I don’t. I used to poo-poo my past birthdays. Now I cherish today and appreciate all the memories and experiences over the past 60 years. When the time comes when I won’t be able to read my daily musings on the blog, I think it’ll help to have Pam read it to me over and over again.

 

Pam, I’m worried about you. I’m glad you’re seeing the Dr. tomorrow. Low potassium, low iron……….no wonder you’re tired!!

 

David

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