What Disturbs Our Blood

What Disturbs Our Blood I read this book several years ago I enjoyed it as much orthe second time in preparation for my book club Having worked in public health and at Connaught Labs, now known as Sanofi Pasteur, I found the history most interesting and fascinating Dr Gerry FitzGerald was ahead of his time in his crusade on health promotion and disease prevention Banting and Best s discovery of insulin and the role played by Connaught Labs is another one of several important times in medical history which are documented in the book The history on the treatment of those with mental illness was appalling It has taken us a long time get to where we are today yet how much or how little progress has been made Overall, James FitzGerald has been skillful in writing the FitzGerald family history and their battle with mental illness over several generations to read like a novel rather than the non fiction book that it is. What an interesting look into the history of public health and mental health in Canada, specifically Toronto As a health care professional, I found this book particularly captivating I had no idea about the strides Canada, specifically Dr Gerald Fitzgerald and his colleagues, have made in making vaccines accessible to all Canadians, including the disenfranchised, the poor The author does a great job in painting a picture of Canada s health care system in the first half of the 20th century, including the on going battle between psychiatry and medicine I was actually surprised to read about the inhumane treatment the mentally ill received during this time However, I feel nothing has changed since then as these individuals continue to be stigmatized Reading about the history of mental health illness in a family across generations confirms the perplexity of this diagnosis and the effect it has on families It remains a taboo and the least talked about topic at the dinner table. A Rich, Unmined Piece Of Canadian History, An Intense Psychological Drama, A Mystery To Be Solved And A Hardwon Escape From A Family CurseLike His Friends Banting And Best, Dr John Fitzgerald Was A Canadian Hero He Founded Connaught Labs, Saved Untold Lives With His Vaccines And Transformed The Idea Of Public Health In Canada And The World What So Darkened His Reputation That His Memory Has Been All But Erased A Sensitive, Withdrawn Boy Is Born Into The Gothic House Of His Long Dead Grandfather, A Brilliant Yet Tormented Pathologist Of Irish Blood And Epic Accomplishment Whose Memory Has Been Mysteriously Erased From Public Consciousness As The Boy Watches His Own Father Also An Eminent Doctor Plunge Into A Suicidal Psychosis, He Intuits, As The Psychiatrists Do Not, Some Unspeakable Secret Buried Like A Tumour Deep In The Multi Generational Layers Of The Family Unconscious Growing Into Manhood, He Knows In His Bones That He Must Stalk An Ancient Curse Before It Stalks Him To Set Himself Free, He Must Break The Silence And Put Words To The Page His Future Lies In The Past I really wanted to like this book as the author has spoken recently in our neighbourhood and seems to be a nice and smart guy The work is obviously cathartic to him as he tried to exorcise his family demons through it The book could have been a good family history, overview of mental health treatment in the 20th century, look at medical heroes in the Toronto area or collection of the author s dreams The problem is that it tries to be all of these things and therefore lacks focus The author also overplays his descriptive hand in many places, referring to Toronto streetcars as being blood red , amongst other hyperbole He tries too hard to do too much and the book suffers for it It readslike a first or second draft rather than a completed work Maybe he was too close to the material to properly deal with paring it down and we should blame his editor Whatever the reason, the result is a rambling and unfocused work with too many instances of distracting use of language Many of the stories and images have stuck with me, but not enough to recommend this book to others. By about page 125, this was just starting to feel unnecessarily long and wordy The psychoanalytic angle was also too heavy handed for me. Well this was a tad tedious However, I enjoyed the historical perspective and am wondering why the Fitzgerald family has not receivedcredit for their contributions to health care in Canada I actually could not finish this book I read what I did read because it was a Book Club read, but many times I just wanted to throw it down in frustration Sorry James, but I thought you were a little over dramatic and a little on the whiney side. While the topic was interesting I felt the book could have used another round of thorough editing I had a hard time keeping all of the names straight as the author basically mentioned every person his grandfather or father ran into in their lifetimes By the end of the book I could barely remember the point of the book there was just too much information to digest. One of the most compelling memoirs I ve read It blends Toronto history and the history of the medical establishment in Canada with a fascinating multi generational family story that s burst open by thoughtful self analysis. This is a riveting analysis of the suppressed secrets of the author s family going back 4 generations I found it it especially meaningful as I knew some of the characters described in the book notably the author s father Dr.Jack FitzGerald Fitz who was the chief of allergy at TWH when I came to Toronto as an internist allergist, and for a couple of years attended the TWH allergy clinic, and later the Gage Institute under Dr.Broder I also got to know Drs.Stan Epstein allergist respirologist ,his brother Norman allergist ret d , Roman Bladek, and Alice Briggs still an active allergist in her 80 s.The author examines the causes of his father Fitz ending his own life in his late 50 s, mimicking the suicide of his extremely gifted father Gerry also at that age Gerry had been the extremely capable, brilliant, empathic, and well liked creator of the Connaught Institute which manufactured vaccines antitoxins free for the public, and set up the U of Toronto School of Hygiene which became world renowned He was involved with Banting,Best, Collip McLean in the discovery of production of insulin, and managed through these to save hundreds of thousands of lives Though highly dedicated, hard working, and eminently successful, he succumbed to the overload of responsibilities he assumed, and neglected his wife who ultimately left him, and his children Jack the author s father his other sondaughter.There is a relentless presentation of how depressionsuicide were rampant in the familysocial set of the Protestant ruling elite, most of whom lived in a small area of the city Rosedale, Forest Hill, St.Clair Ave Rd went to UCC from age 8 18 the subject of an earlier book by the author There is agood deal about treatment of mental illness by the conflicting approaches of the Toronto group MDs using drugs, ECT, insulin shock, leucotomy, lobotomy often with terrible results, vs the Freudian approach of psychanalysis which Freud thought best administered by capable non MDs.Ultimately James FitzGerald redeems himself after unearthing these suppressed secrets, and doesn t feel bound to follow in the self destructive footsteps of his father grandfather. James FitzGerald s father was a renowned allergist, a man who pioneered research techniques in his professional field, until his 50s, when an irreversible slide into depression and several failed suicide attempts put an end to his career FitzGerald s grandfather was also a medical man, but the writer has no idea just how renowned until he discovers the man suffered a similar collapse in his 50s Hoping to get some answers and possibly escape what now seems like a preordained fate, the writer uncovers a profound familial history of zeal, ambition, and remarkable global achievement and recognition which seemingly evaporated at the time of death.Although at times I felt as if the writer was perhaps too close to the story, recounting dreams and digressing into Freudian theory a little too frequently for my liking, it is undeniably his story to tell He tells it well rarely was my patience tested to the point of speed reading For his contributions to our understanding of immunology, Gerry FitzGerald should be recalled as readily as his colleagues Banting Best And although Western medicine has evolved a great deal from those terrible days of isolating and pointedly torturing mental health patients techniques described in excruciating detail by the writer , there is still a great deal of progress to be made in the field.So long as the reader is prepared to indulge the writer his fervor for the psychotherapy that has enabled him to survive and thrive into his 60s, I have no trouble giving this book a high recommendation.

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  • Hardcover
  • 512 pages
  • What Disturbs Our Blood
  • James Fitzgerald
  • English
  • 01 September 2019
  • 9780679313151

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