A remarkable, uplifting story about one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 20th century.
In 1951 in Sydney, Australia, a 14-year-old boy named James Harrison was near death when he received a transfusion of blood that saved his life. A few years later, and half a world away, a shy young doctor at Columbia University realized he was more comfortable in the lab than in the examination room. Neither could have imagined how their paths would cross, or how they would change the world.
In Good Blood, best-selling writer Julian Guthrie tells the gripping tale of the race to cure a horrible aﬄiction known as Rh disease that stalked families and caused a mother’s immune system to attack her own unborn child. The story is anchored by two very diﬀerent men on two continents: Dr. John Gorman in New York, who would land on a brilliant yet contrarian idea, and the unassuming Australian whose almost magical blood - and his unyielding devotion to donating it - would save millions of lives.
Good Blood takes us from Australia to America, from research laboratories to hospitals, and even into Sing Sing prison, where experimental blood trials were held. It is a tale of discovery and invention, the progress and pitfalls of medicine, and the everyday heroics that fundamentally changed the health of women and babies.
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Good Housekeeping version of a medical discovery
Maybe I was expecting too much after reading books like Sue Armstrong's book on cancer, P53, which is truly a gem. Good Blood was about the discovery of a treatment for Rh disease, where the mother develops antibodies against her baby's blood. The counter-intuitive cure is to inject the mother with antibodies against Rh+ blood from other mothers. The book never tries to come to grips with the question why other mothers' anti-Rh antibodies are better than the birth mother's anti-Rh antibodies. Don't the other mother's antibodies also react with the baby's blood? If not, why not? How come the birth mother's blood doesn't develop antibodies against injected proteins from a stranger? After all, she's reacting against foreign proteins from her own baby, why not against a stranger's proteins? You won't get answers to any of these questions here. A few minutes on wikipedia hints at an answer - IgM vs IgG antibody classes, but those are terms that are never even mentioned in the book. Instead we get stories of the dresses the doctors' brides wore on their wedding days, where they honeymooned, where they vacationed with their kids, and filler narrative that veers between gushing and maudlin. The men are all "married to the woman of their dreams" (yes, that's a quote) and the babies are all big bouncing blue-eyed and beautiful. Until the men are suddenly and without explanation getting re-married. The medical insight in the book, such as it is, is limited to a couple of paragraphs in the first third of the book, and after that it's all collecting accolades and awards and growing old. All this, and you get to hear it in the chirpy tones of a morning commute newscaster.
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