Thursday, January 06, 2005

Saving Milly by Morton Kondracke

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

* Hardcover: 320 pages
* Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st edition, 2001
* ISBN: 1586480375
* $25.00

In order to learn more about a disease that has affected several family members, I read Saving Milly with great interest. I was quickly pulled in. Kondracke writes with honesty about a strong and vital woman, his wife, as well as what it means to be caregiver and spouse to one afflicted with Parkinson's Disease. He has much to say in praise of his Milly, while often taking an unglorious view of himself. He admits to insecurities and vanities and weaknesses few of us would admit to in public, let alone to ourselves. Most admirable, perhaps, is the love story intertwined with the story of how both Mort and Milly, each in their own way, cope with PD. In a time when so few relationships survive the minor bumps and bruises of everyday life, this one has survived a major crisis, grown even stronger for the testing. When these two married for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and with a promise of fidelity... they meant it. Wonderful.

While much of what Kondracke writes about the symptoms and treatments of Milly's disease were, in basic outlines, already known to me, I was intrigued to read his insights into the politics of a disease. I was not surprised... yet nonetheless dismayed. Money rules. Connections count. Nothing like celebrity to shine a spotlight on a particular illness. Hrmph. But so be it, this is reality. And to see it in sharper light of realistic approaches and political power can only help us play the game more effectively. None of us should be unaware of the lies we are too often fed by politicians, but all of us should hold those we vote into office accountable. In the end, it is most important to understand that causes close to our heart must be championed if they are to be cured.

Kondracke has given us a window onto a disease that has or will touch many of our lives, a disease that has gotten too little attention, especially prior to exposure gained by Michael J. Fox (who also makes an appearance in this book). It may not be the most typical experience with PD, especially in terms of the kind of care he could provide Milly because of his own celebrity and his own higher income bracket, but that is of less importance than the story of survival achieved with love, grace, compassion, and insight.

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