Looking at prion disease in general, Max doubles back to the English mad-cow epidemic of the s, retracing established backstories among New Guinea aboriginals and European sheep herds. There's enough fascinating material—in particular, a theory suggesting that early humans were nearly wiped out by a plague spread by cannibalism—to keep readers engaged, but they're likely to want still more about the genuinely captivating family drama.
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But nowhere is this drive to do better more important than in medicine, where lives are on the line with every dec From to , Dr. Rick Strassman conducted U. His detailed acc Nursing is more than a career; it's a calling, and one of the most important fascinating, and dangerous professions in the world. As the frontline responders battling traumas, illnesses, and aggression from surprising sources, nurses are remarkable Following a Cart Help Sign In. Specials Apps Gift Center. Play Sample. He was sweating more and more and his servants would by now be bringing him fresh shirts several times a day.
The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery
If the doctor had turned to contemporary authorities on insomnia, he would have found little of use. Sleep, even now a mystery in many ways to science and medicine, was utterly obscure to the doctors of his time, who were still struggling to understand what went on in plain sight in the day.
Indeed, the unsleeping doctor would have had to go all the way back to Galen, the ancient Roman physician whose teachings had dominated medicine until Galileo had challenged him a century before. Galen had learned most of what he knew about sleep from Aristotle, who had pronounced confidently on the question as he had on most scientific issues. Necessarily, everything that wakes must be capable of sleeping.
For it is unable to be active at all times. After a person had a big meal the warm fumes from the process of digestion entered the veins, thence to the brain, and thither to the heart, the seat of consciousness, where their cooling brought about sleep. Galen, writing five centuries after him, corrected Aristotle— the warm meal went directly to the brain, where it plugged the pores by which sensations entered and exited.
It is unlikely the Venetian doctor took either Galen or Aristotle seriously. Both would have seemed speculative to him when compared to the certainties of the Acquapendente. Still, back in Venice now, to be on the safe side, he might have ordered his cook to produce bigger meals—roast fowls and hams and sausages and fish from the Adriatic doused in the heavy French sauces that were newly in style.
If so, the results would have confirmed his skepticism about the learnedness of anyone who had not gone to Padua. He would have sat awake in a chair, his stomach distended, waiting for the meal to warm his head. To help the process along he would have had plenty of wine, as well—wine was particularly recommended for insomnia—and then sat up through the night until the sun rose over the Lido.
There, dressed as the medico della peste, he could have kept his vigil. It was the sort of wit Venetians admired—a doctor in the black cape, the long white nose, and the face mask of the plague fighter.
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Dressed this way, the only evidence of his problem would have been the twin pinpricks of his eyes, peering from behind his mask. The doctor would have asked himself whether he had caught something. Infection was on the mind of mid-eighteenth-century Venice. The city had a public health department well versed in the subject.
They burned the bedding of disease victims and left their clothes out in the sun and air for a week to help neutralize the contagion.
"The Family That Couldn't Sleep"
But what were they neutralizing? Here there was less agreement. The predominant view was that infection was an invisible substance carried in the air as smell. Thus the plague doctor costume of carnevale had a sponge at the tip of the long white nose, and workers who disinfected clothing for the Venetian authorities were also required to perfume the room and the personal effects of the deceased. But in the lexicon of disease there was no infection that corresponded to what the doctor was feeling. He was not just hot but extraordinarily anxious, like a horse at full gallop, sweaty and prone to a shaking that seemed to come from deep within.
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He was exhausted, falling in and out of a light, dream-wracked sleep. His servants might have heard him knocking on his own window, thinking it was a door, or spied him preparing the leeches for use, swishing around imaginary water in the dark glass jar where he kept them.
The servants would have gone into his room to waken him, followed by his distraught wife. He would not remember sleeping, nor would he feel at all rested. Was he destined for the ships of fools, those boats in the farthest parts of the lagoon where the Serenissima housed the poor souls from whom God had taken the power of reason? See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly.
Overview For two hundred years a noble Venetian family has suffered from an inherited disease that strikes their members in middle age, stealing their sleep, eating holes in their brains, and ending their lives in a matter of months.
In Papua New Guinea, a primitive tribe is nearly obliterated by a sickness whose chief symptom is uncontrollable laughter. Across Europe, millions of sheep rub their fleeces raw before collapsing. In England, cows attack their owners in the milking parlors, while in the American West, thousands of deer starve to death in fields full of grass.
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