Joseph Fisher – writer (4 books, 3 book chapters, 20 scientific papers) and medical researcher
his website- www.the-next-breath.org contains information about the book and sample pages from it
- A brutally honest memoir about having a PE and resultant complications (of which there were many).
- It not only covers his medical story but has useful information about blood clots and their treatment. It does not shy away from the emotional impact of his illness and has helpful information on PTSD.
About the book
- Published 2014
- 237 pages
- Kindle edition costs US$ 7.29
- A Survivor’s Tale
- The New Normal: PTSD and Beyond
- Victimization: Fate and Forgiveness
- Facing Oblivion
- Winnowing: The Window of Opportunity
What I liked
I was impressed with the quality of the writing and the breadth of coverage of issues; it has factual information as well as Joe’s life story. It is good to see coverage of mental health issues. The book contains a lot about his recovery, how he made sense of his illness and how his life was changed. This makes it an overall positive read rather than a sensationalist medical misadventure.
What I disliked
It’s hard really to call this a dislike as it’s a true story, but Joe’s story is not typical and I would hate to think that people who read it expect their journey to be the same as his. Joe had multiple issues and side-effects which are important to know about, but only if you can avoid them impacting too much on your own recovery. Having said that I think it would be an excellent read for health professionals to gain understanding of what patients may go through.
- Joe had had a few weeks of general malaise with persistent pain and swelling in his leg, but he was fit and healthy; in training for a Himalayan trek and able to swim a mile.
- He was aware of pulmonary embolism and in fact rather phobic about them, as his mother had died from a massive PE. This meant he self-diagnosed his PE which occurred while he was walking and which he describes like this,
- “I took a single step and in that span I went from being healthy, vigorous and in good shape, to a person on the edge of death. The entire right side of my body was constricted as if clamped in place. I could not take in air, [was] gasping for breath, air coming into my starved lungs as raspy gulps. And oh, the anxiety.”
- His formal diagnosis, treatment and on-going problems form the bulk of the story which I won’t spoil for you by describing in full, but here are some quotes from the rest of the book:
Quotes from the book;
On his emotional state
- “night was the time when I lived in my mind and the demons that resided there were difficult to keep at bay….I often wondered what would happen if I had another PE.”
- “I was perpetually on guard for the next PE, standing sentinel to sound the alarm and summon aid.”
- “The medical profession proved to be unable or unwilling to address the emotional side of my illness.”
- “What I needed after the PE was a means to lasting stress relief and comfort, one that could provide a cognitive transformation not just a firewall against bad thoughts. My fears, anxieties and preoccupations were chronic not transitory.”
On taking Coumadin (warfarin)
- “In my view, Coumadin use was symbolic of decline. [Users would] spend their remaining lives tethered to a chemical life-line.”
- “Muscle aches, fever and flu-like symptoms, weight gain, rashes, itching, stiffness and difficulty moving are some of the side-effects I experienced and still do. Two of my least favourites are hair loss and anxiety.”
- “Being tethered to a drug for my continued existence made me at once frustrated, angry and depressed.”
- “Preoccupation with proper [Coumadin] dosing …bordered on an obsession because I had experienced excessive bleeding, clots and embolisms by deviating from the safe therapeutic zone. I always checked the dosage each day before I took the medicine.”
- “Getting well became a full time occupation and preoccupation leaving little time for anything else.”
- “a profoundly moving period of self-examination and change. I have never loved my wife and family with such intensity as after.”
- “I wanted to go forward and make a new future for myself [which] involved the shedding of unfinished business that was no longer relevant, deciding instead that what was truly significant in my life and letting the other things, once firmly held, fall away.”