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The Fight to Survive: A Young Girl, Diabetes, and the Discovery of Insulin Hardcover – November 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing; 1 edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607145510
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607145516
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,256,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Elizabeth Hughes's is a small story, filled with the optimism of a 14-year-old with unbounded dreams. But there was nothing small about the discovery of insulin and the trials in August 1922 that saved Hughes and revolutionized the treatment of diabetes: patients in a wretched, depleted state... brought back from imminent death in what one researcher called near resurrections. Hughes lucked out: her father, Charles, as governor of New York and a GOP heavyweight, was able to get her into the original trial. Alternating the teen's painful, isolated childhood with the struggle of researchers hoping to save patients diagnosed with a then fatal disease, Cox (a historian at the University of the Pacific) weaves a compelling tale of commitment and discovery. Elizabeth always had confidence in her future, Cox writes, even as she withered away on a near-starvation diet—the only known treatment before insulin. Her saviors—including 1923 Nobel Prize winners Frederick Banting and John Macleod—ultimately reaped fame, glory and prizes, but found it tempered by bitterness and divisions within the team. Here is both a remarkable medical history and an inspiring lesson in hope. (Nov.)
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About the Author

Caroline Cox is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. She is the author of A Proper Sense of Honor: Service and Sacrifice in George Washington's Army. She has also written numerous articles for history publications and has appeared as a commentator on the History Channel.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
She's determined to be a writer and really live in the world.
Bernard Farrell
Therefore, Elizabeth's only hope was to submit to an arduous regimen known as "starvation therapy," which was devised by Dr. Frederick Allen.
E. Bukowsky
It is a compelling story, beautifully written, and meticulously researched by Caroline Cox.
Jill N. Cartwright

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Caroline Cox's "The Fight to Survive" is the true story of Elizabeth Evans Hughes who, at the age of eleven, was diagnosed with what is known today as juvenile diabetes. In the twenty-first century, diabetes can be controlled with insulin and a proper diet, although there is still no cure. However, in the early nineteen hundreds, insulin was not yet available. Therefore, Elizabeth's only hope was to submit to an arduous regimen known as "starvation therapy," which was devised by Dr. Frederick Allen. Normally, a girl of Elizabeth's age would consume up to two thousand calories a day. However, for three years, she was forced to subsist on an average of eight hundred calories or less per day, in order "to prevent the sugar in her body from reaching toxic levels."

Cox admiringly depicts Elizabeth Hughes as a contented, self-disciplined, and grateful child who did as she was told. Her upbeat attitude helped her endure deprivation with relative equanimity. Although she was perpetually hungry and often physically weak, she found ways to occupy herself and take her mind off food. She read widely, socialized with friends, listened to music, enjoyed nature, wrote essays, and "tried her best in the face of enormous challenges to live well." She had self-confidence and enormous will power, and refused to be defined by her illness.

Elizabeth's father was Charles Evans Hughes, a lawyer who went on to hold important positions in the United States throughout his life: Governor of New York, Supreme Court Justice, Secretary of State, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. One would not blame Elizabeth if she had been somewhat spoiled, demanding of attention, and resentful of her parents' preoccupation with their social and political activities.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Farrell VINE VOICE on December 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is mostly set in the early 1920s, just after World War I, the influenza pandemic and a rapidly changing world. It's a time when epidemics, including polio, still broke out in communities. 10% of all children born alive died before their first birthday. And a diagnosis of diabetes was a death sentence.

Elizabeth Hughes lives a privileged life but this doesn't protect here when at 11 years old she is diagnosed with diabetes. Her parents take her to see Dr. Allen, whose treatment approach for diabetes is the Starvation Diet. Basically patients were only allowed the amount of food that wouldn't cause sugar to appear in their urine. In Elizabeth's case this means she's forced to live on a diet of no more than 750 calories a day, less when she's under stress or is sick. This is a diet that almost no-one can stick too, it's just too challenging.

But Elizabeth is a disciplined and determined young girl. Her family hires a full-time nurse to help Elizabeth live despite her diabetes. And this Elizabeth does really well, despite not being able to eat any of the food that her friends consume when she's at parties with them. She's determined to be a writer and really live in the world.

Banting and Best are two of a team of famous scientists who first isolated and produced insulin in 1922. But when Elizabeth was diagnosed, this team hadn't even been formed. This book does a masterful job of weaving the details of Elizabeth's life into the history of the early development of insulin.

As someone who is now kept alive because of insulin, I riveted by the details about those early experiments in Toronto that eventually led to insulin. They struggle with a lack of funding and lab equipment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dw Denning on January 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinarily well written story about a young girl with diabetes who survives against the odds. Her self discipline and courage comes across on every page. She is lucky that insulin became available when it did. Her prominent american family makes the historical backdrop all the more interesting.
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