Saturday, February 18, 2017

Thank You, Alix Spiegel

One of the unsung heroes in An Irruption of Owls is a reporter by the name of Alix Spiegel. Alix was the author of a 2009 NPR report that helped solve a medical mystery in our family. The report, which was aired as a segment of "All Things Considered," was entitled "How a Bone Disease Grew to Fit the Prescription."
   My mother, Idora Tucker, was 86 and still skiing when she began taking Fosamax, on the advice of her new primary-care physician, who did not do a bone-density test. This was in 2005, several years after Fosamax, originally prescribed to people with osteoporosis, was approved for preventive care.
   Eighteen months later, my mother experienced crippling pain in both legs. It took eight months of hassling medical professionals for her to learn that she had stress fractures in both femurs. Nobody could explain why.
   By December 2009, when I heard Alix's report while driving along a Vermont highway, my mother had been trying for almost three years to understand what had gone wrong with her legs. The fractures had healed, but the episode had left her permanently impaired.
   An Irruption of Owls, which I wrote with my bare hands, was published in 2015 and I am embarrassed to say that I never thanked Alix for effectively solving the mystery that is the crux of that story.
   So thank you, Alix Spiegel, for using your investigative and story-telling talents to enlighten us about important matters concerning women's health. I'm sorry it took me so long.
   My mother's illness upended her life, and mine, and that of my very patient and obliging husband. Idora Tucker was a doctor's wife and very careful about her health. She did not accept her doctors' theories about what might have caused her bones to break, and she refused to take the narcotic painkiller that one of them prescribed. She was determined, as she said, "to get to the bottom of things." She wanted to know the truth.
   Today Alix Spiegel cohosts Invisibilia, an NPR program about the invisible forces that control human behavior—ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions. I am her devoted fan.
   PS You can now download An Irruption of Owls for free from Smashwords. The book, which contains a chapter about my grandparents' run-in with McCarthyism, is my contribution to the resistance. I've also posted an adaptation of the chapter about my mother's illness on my brand-new website, here.
Above: An artifact of my father's medical practice, given to him by a drug salesman.

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