It’s true what they say about human nature. We love a good freak show.
It’s not really clear why. Maybe seeing bizarre-looking people or things makes us feel better about ourselves. Or maybe we’re just all a little too easily entertained. But hopefully, it makes us appreciate our lives more and inspires empathy for those less fortunate.
That’s the premise (and hope) behind "Medical Mysteries: From the Bizarre to the Deadly … The Cases that have Baffled Doctors" (Hyperion, $14.99), a collection of fascinating short stories about the most bizarre medical stories you’re ever likely to hear and how the human spirit is able to rise above them.
Taken from the files of the hit ABC primetime show of the same name, ABC News senior producer Ann Reynolds and NYC-based writer Kenneth Wapner weave together a handful of tragic medical cases that will enthrall and inspire, including:
• The girl who is born with her internal organs backward
• The man with “fake foreign accent syndrome”
• The man who appears to be turning into a tree
• The woman who is seasick — on land
• The man whose paralysis is set off by eating pizza
Thankfully though, this isn’t just a book version of the yearly freak show at the local carnival. The authors steer clear of compounding these people’s already tragic trials by simply laying their stories bare for everyone to see, without any context or explanation or hope.
They tactfully and meticulously untangle the details of people’s unbelievable and often heartbreaking disorders in the hopes of providing comfort, relief and — hopefully — a cure. In exchange, the reader is left with a sense of the indomitable human spirit.
Readers will also get a feel for the incredible work that doctors perform on a daily basis, mostly without any recognition, as they try to put together the clues to help solve or alleviate some of the most bizarre conditions on Earth.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the most detailed, scientific book on medical mysteries ever. It’s more like "CSI," if it were on the Lifetime network.
But it is an intriguing and quick read that will make you remember how lucky you are to simply be alive and well. That’s a notion Reynolds captures perfectly in the last page of the book. She writes:
“If there’s anything we took away from our foray into the most mysterious diseases medicine offered us, it was a variation on what my mother, the anesthesiologist, often told me. ‘Honey,’ she would say when I complained of an ache or pain, ‘there are billions of processes going on in your body every second … Something’s going to go wrong every once in a while, and most of the time your body will fix it. When you think about it, it’s a miracle that most of us make it through our lives without some sort of major disease. So take a hot bath, you’ll live.’”
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