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Friday, August 1, 2008

An extension of his work as a doctor: A memoir by a sufferer of Lewy Body disease

Fifteen years ago, he had been a member of the Cardiology "Dream Team" assembled by the Boston Celtics to evaluate Reggie Lewis after he collapsed during an NBA playoff game in 1993. And he was a professor at Harvard Medical School.

But nowadays the former marathon runner is stooped, and shuffles when he walks. Most notably, the disease has robbed him of the ability to communicate clearly, logically and quickly. Dr. Graboys has Lewy Body dementia, a syndrome that affects a third of Parkinson's patients.

Even with this humbling disease, Dr. Graboys was eager to tell his story because he thought it might be helpful to others facing their own medical struggles. He wanted to capture his experience on paper quickly, because he didn't know how much longer he would be able to tell his story.

He contacted Peter Zheutlin to write his story. Dr. Graboys was an unusually gifted clinician and an unusually compassionate doctor who believed his most important diagnostic tools were his ears; he listened, and his patients loved him for it. In turn, he valued each patient's trust as a gift offering a window into the human condition.

Over the course of a year, he and Peter met twice a week at his home in a suburb of Boston, and he gave Peter an intimate tour of his life and his mind Peter's book tells of the toll the illness has taken on his sex life. It may be too frank for some, but Dr. Graboys was intent on being as brutally honest as possible. As a physician, he had created an atmosphere in which patients felt safe in disclosing their most personal concerns. He understood that mny of them were relieved to find a physician with whom they could talk comfortably about sex.

The book became a focal point of his life after he had to retire from medicine in 2005. Writing it was an extension of his work as a doctor. He proved that despite what he lost, he could still share abundant knowledge and wisdom.

Advice to people with a chronic illness: Tell your story to share your life lessons.

Read another story about Lewy body disease.

Thanks to Peter Zheutlin for the source article in the June/July issue of Metrowest Magazine.

1 comment:

David Thomas said...

I am also a physician with Lewy Body Dementia. I am currently reading Dr. Graboys' book, "Life in the Balance." He tells a phenomenal story of his struggles with dementia and the effect it has on his life and family. An excellent read!

David Thomas MD

http://knittingdoc.wordpress.com

Diary of a Physician Psychiatrist with Lewy Body Dementia & Alzheimer's Disease