Against Medical Advice by James Patterson

December 3, 2009

against-medical-advice Summary: At about the age of 5, Cory Friedman started getting uncontrollable urges to move his body in certain ways or perform certain actions, such as tapping people, hopping, or shaking his head violently from side to side. His concerned parents brought him to doctors, and after an initial misdiagnosis that put the kid on Ritalin, someone finally concluded that Cory had Tourette Syndrome. In many cases, tics caused by Tourette’s can be controlled or limited with certain drugs, so the Friedman family went to a series of specialists to try to determine what the best course of treatment would be.

Unfortunately, none of the drugs seemed to work very well. Doctors tried multiple combinations, varied the dosages (including giving the boy extremely high, near-dangerous amounts), and generally conducted what amounted to blind experiments. Cory suffered terribly from side effects, including incredible weight gain that saw him balloon by 43 pounds at one point. It’s a wonder his parents didn’t put him on fat burners as well after that one.

It turned out that Cory’s case of Tourette’s, combined with severe OCD, was one of the most complex that doctors ever came across. Because no medication or therapy worked, Cory spiraled into a deep depression that included alcohol addiction and suicidal thoughts. The unfailing support and love of his parents was the only thing that kept him going most times.

But Cory kept on fighting, retaining a glimmer of hope that someday something might change. And then it did. Suddenly near the end of his junior year of high school, he noticed that he went through an entire day without most of the tics that usually present themselves. The trend continued, and the Tourette’s became far more manageable all on its own, thereby allowing Cory to go on to college and lead a very normal life.

Liked:

  • Well, since this was a true story, I liked the fact that Cory got so much better in the end. I wish it had happened sooner, so that he wouldn’t have had to suffer so much. No kid deserves a childhood like that.

Disliked:

  • Because of the way the book was written, I had a hard time feeling any sympathy for Cory — mostly because of the way he and/or his family expected him to be treated by others. They wanted Cory to do “normal” things like go to regular school, play football, and go to that wilderness camp, yet they expected everyone to bend over backwards for his special needs as well. For example, he “had” to have smoke breaks at school, was unduly upset when he was benched for one game for violating team punctuality rules, and complained about a camp counselor not taking the time to talk him out of his irrational fear that something happened to his parents. They wanted to eat their cake and have it to. They seemed very demanding and off-putting.
  • I hated when Cory got mad at his aide for turning him in for breaking school rules about smoking. This was the perfect example of what I mean about wanting his to have his cake and eat it too. Cory admitted he was “too lazy” that day to walk all the way off school grounds, but then got pissed when he was busted. Whatever.
  • Speaking of smoking, why is it that Cory’s parents allowed him to smoke, drink, and hang out with the wrong crowd? Sure they tried to justify it by saying that they had to “pick their battles” and that Cory simply wouldn’t listen to them, but I couldn’t believe that they’d let an underage kid drink in their own home. I don’t know… that really rubbed me the wrong way.
  • Yet another example of wanting it both ways was how the family objected to and argued about the school administration wanting Cory to repeat junior year. Let’s face it: he missed tons of time and didn’t do the required work. Yet the family insisted that he be allowed to progress to 12th grade just because his psychologist said it was important to move on? WTF??
  • The book was very repetitive in that it simply chronicled Cory’s tics, the attempted treatments, and the searing disappointments at each failure. Perhaps this was done purposely to try to better convey the frustration of the family, but in all honesty, it made for some boring reading.
  • I didn’t like that the book was told from Cory’s point of view. This was a bit distracting, especially since the authors are listed as father Hal and James Patterson. This made several passages very awkward, particularly those in which Cory praised his parents for being so loving and caring no matter what he did. I mean, Hal was essentially patting himself on the back here!

Rating:

I don’t have any experience with Tourette Syndrome, either personally or secondhand, so I know I wasn’t the intended audience for Against Medical Advice by James Patterson and Hal Friedman. Then again, a bestselling author like Patterson doesn’t put his name to a book unless he expects it to be read by a wide audience, right? At any rate, I found there to be very little of interest in this book for someone like me. I thought I would at least learn a little bit about Tourette Syndrome, like some of the causes, treatments, and success stories, but that didn’t happen. Cory’s story turned out to be a happy one, but without any analysis, explanation, or outside commentary, it was hard to put it in perspective. I give the book 2 stars out of 5.

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