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"The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency
on October 1, 2014
I loved it. It was beautifully written, and very well-researched. I have never read much of a description of what it felt like to have Polio, and that was very interesting and important to me. I remember some of it; especially feeling the most awful that I've ever felt, but I don't remember all of it so I appreciated that aspect of the book very much.
I recall in '03 when the theory that FDR had Guillain-Barre Syndrome and not Polio first appeared. I felt the people responsible for it did not do their research adequately and did not properly evaluate their information-they just plugged facts into a computer and it came out with Guillain-Barre. That made me incredibly angry. There is, or used to be, an acronym in the computer world: GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out, and that's exactly what I felt this theory to be. If they had made a proper job of it, and if it actually HAD been GBS, I wouldn't have had a problem with it at all.
One of the main props of their theory was the fact that FDR never had a spinal tap, which they would have considered definitive "proof" of Polio. Lumbar punctures in GBS patients have high protein and low white blood cell counts while the spinal fluid in Polio patients is milky white due to the high WBC count. James Tobin found the proof in his research that FDR indeed did have a spinal tap and that the results, along with all of the other symptoms and signs were entirely consistent with Polio.
After the local doctor couldn't diagnose him and 84-year-old famous retired surgeon William Keene mis-diagnosed him, Louis Howe made sure that Polio specialists were called in. He felt Keene was wrong, and had noticed the Roosevelt children starting to have symptoms-none of them went on to paralytic Polio, however. Louis also avidly read the papers and he knew Polio was active right then as well. It's more than likely that the local practitioner, and Dr. Keene had never seen a case of Polio before. The specialists certainly had and knew the symptoms, and all of the little signs in a patient that point to Polio-and, as stated above, felt that everything, including the results of the spinal tap-were consistent with Polio.
The proof that a spinal tap was done was in one of the doctors' unpublished notes. It's not mentioned in the text of "The Man He Became." You have to read the notes to find it. This was worth the entire cost of the book to me. I hope that it kills the erroneous GBS theory permanently, but most likely, it won't.
My only criticism of the Kindle edition is that there are no footnotes in the text. Once you get to the notes, they are actively linked back to that passage in the text, but as you read, there's no indication any passage has a footnote. It makes it very hard to refer to the notes as you read. You either have to read them before that chapter, after that chapter, or after the entire book. That makes the ability to navigate back to that passage in the text very useful and important, because by then, you don't remember what the note refers to.
I can very highly recommend "The Man He Became."