I recently traveled out west to visit the in-law side of the family and attend the wedding of a family friend.
Airline travel is no longer the luxury that it used to be. It is better than a 24-hour drive, but being crammed into seats with way too little leg and knee room (no, I don’t get to travel first class) makes even short flights seem much longer than they really are.
On our flight back home, as I was wedged into the steerage section of the plane, I was prepared with my iPad, an audiobook and other mind-numbing activities to try to make the time pass. Choosing none of those, I decided to dig through the seatback pocket to see what treasure might be within.
To my surprise, I actually found one! Nestled down within the seatback pocket was a copy of “Against Medical Advice” by James Patterson and Hal Friedman.
I was intrigued because this didn’t seem to be one of his usual thriller-type books. After reading the blurb just inside the cover — “One morning É just before my fifth birthday, I woke up as a normal, healthy boy. By that afternoon, I had as irresistible urge to shake my head — continually — and the course of my life changed in ways few people had ever seen or could begin to understand” — I was hooked.
Between that leg of our trip and the next (yes, I took it with me), I devoured the true story of Cory Friedman, who, with that urge to shake his head, began his journey into the hellish nightmare of life with Tourette’s Syndrome, OCD and alcoholism.
Patterson and Friedman used the extensive journals kept by Cory’s mother, along with the memories of both Cory and his family, to weave the tale of this horrific journey. They opted to write the book in the first person, from Cory’s point of view. This made the book come alive and increased the emotional impact of the story.
The title, “Against Medical Advice,” comes from an episode when Cory was checked into a psychiatric hospital for treatment of his alcohol addiction. It wasn’t long into the check-in process that Cory realized he was being locked up in a place from which he saw no escape. He began to panic, ticcing more than usual.
After much debate, his father told the hospital they had changed their minds and did not wish to admit Cory. The hospital refused, saying he had already been admitted and must stay for at least 72 hours.
After a quick call to Cory’s therapist, his family requested the release of their son AMA (against medical advice). When the hospital did not respond, Cory’s father emphatically stated they were leaving the hospital AMA.
The journey through Cory’s Tourette’s and OCD takes his family and him through more than 60 different medications, a host of different doctors or therapists, treatment via a wilderness boot camp experience, dropping out of high school and an eventual re-admission to school.
However, it ends with hope. At the back of the book are actual images of pages from his mother’s journal outlining Cory’s symptoms and treatments, as well as lists of the various medications, vitamins and minerals he took.
The book is a fascinating and quick read, and serves as an education about a little known or understood syndrome.
Joplin Public Library has the title in both print and audiobook. Or, if you are lucky, you might find my copy. I found it “in the wild,” and I plan to “release it into the wild” (i.e. leave it in a public place for someone else to read).