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The Woman with a Worm in Her Head: And Other True Stories of Infectious Disease Paperback – December 6, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As a "bugs and drugs doc," Pamela Nagami has seen some of the worst diseases known to humankind--flesh-eating strep, parasitic worms that zigzag through the brain, and AIDS, the biggest infectious disease emergency around. Some of the infections profiled in Maneater can smolder for years before rearing up and killing their unsuspecting human host; others seem innocuous, like chickenpox, which can nevertheless devastate a body. Others, like malaria, travel from other countries, but equally dangerous microbes live in American soil, just waiting to be disturbed by a backhoe or a runner and inhaled in a single breath. These indelible dispatches from the frontlines of infectious disease reveal the danger lurking in everything from salads to the air we breathe, the heroic actions of doctors faced with these bizarre cases on a daily basis, and the limits of medical miracles. Like a detective unraveling a crime scene, Nagami shows us how the most innocuous actions can hurt us, or save our lives. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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“Nagami zooms in like a microscope on infections. She presents them, with all their drama, in the context of how they alter patients' and doctors' lives. Along the way, she conveys an amazing amount of medical information that's easy to absorb. Using her sharp storytelling skills, she illustrates for us how vulnerable we all are to microscopic intruders and how having the right doctor on our side can mean the difference between living and becoming another statistic in the morbidity reports.” ―Jane E. Allen, Los Angeles Times

“In the tradition of Microbe Hunters, The Woman with a Worm in Her Head is a fascinating account of a physician's struggles on behalf of her patients against the terrifying underworld of infectious diseases. Dr. Nagami is a compelling writer whose insatiable curiosity about bacteria and viruses never comes at the expense of those who suffer from them.” ―Frank Huyler, M.D., author of The Blood of Strangers

The Woman with a Worm in Her Head brings us the excitement of the fight against infections, the human drama that surrounds their impact, and helps us understand how to avoid them. The reader will be swept up in the detective story behind finding the culprits and the human story that surrounds each case. This book successfully explores the interface between the sick patient and the all-too-human physician who comes with implacable weapons of modern medical technology, but more important, her own feelings, strengths, and weaknesses.” ―C.J. Peters, M.D., author of Virus Hunter

“A physician of great medical skills and writing talent . . . Nagami, in her fine book, conveys her humanness, warmth, and caring concern as a physician, and as a person. She helps reestablish our faith in medical practice. After reading The Woman with a Worm in Her Head, at the first sign of microbial invasion you would want to call her to take care of you. I know I would.” ―Robert S. Desowitz, Ph.D., author of The Malaria Capers

“[In The Woman with a Worm in Her Head] the vigor of hope is preserved, even in the face of the final incapacity. The depth of a humane vision is maintained to the end. The physician's own failings and shortcomings (for there is a limit to medical skills, despite the much-vaunted progress) are made into a route of escape from a ruinous sense of superiority . . . We all enjoy the physician's chronicle of the mighty struggle. It is a war that concerns us all, whose episodes are always fascinating. All the more so when told, as in these pages directly, truthfully, and clearly, by a front-line veteran.” ―F. Gonzalez-Crussi, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Pathology (from the foreword to Maneater)

“Gripping . . . clear and engaging . . . if you can stand excursions into the gut-wrenching, high-risk precincts of medical science, you will read and enjoy this from beginning to end.” ―Arno Karlen, The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (December 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312306016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312306014
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hal Grotke on December 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
OK, first my prejudice--I am a resident physician working in the hospital where Dr. Nagami spends most of her professional time in recent years. She volunteers her time to teach me and my colleagues about infectious disease as well as her other specialties, internal medicine and geriatrics. She is brilliant in every way a resident would like an attending to be--knowledgable, insightful, out-going, pleasant, extraordinarily respectful of everyone around her, funny and overflowing with stories of her invaluable experiences.
That said I love her book. It helps that I recognize many of the characters. It helps, too, that I can hear her voice as I read it (partly because she has read excerpts to us on rounds). It is, nonetheless, an inspiring, touching, and, yes, educational work. Oh, and even though physicians who read it will find it educational that does not mean that it is in any way outside comprehension of other readers. I was tempted to skim past some of the short, plain language explanations aimed at the lay reader, but found even those sections to be helpful to the flow of the text. Not condescending, not verbose--just part of the story.
This is a wonderful book I would recommend to anyone. Sure it has particular appeal to those with special interest in health-related issues, it is also a pleasant look at humanism and spirituality.
Thanks, Dr. Nagami.
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Format: Hardcover
My girlfriend gave me this book because of my interest in medicine. I expected to find a dry account of several cases of diseases, but what I got instead was a gripping account of one inspirational doctor's career in the dangerous field of infectious diseases. Dr. Nagami not only lets you inside her field, but also inside her head as you read what it is like to make life-and-death decisions on a daily basis. The tales were shocking, but also extremely informative and exciting. This reads almost like a detective novel, with Dr. Nagami searching for the invaders that are ruining her patients' bodies. An overall excellent book that will keep you entertained for hours.
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By A Customer on November 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Pamela Nagami M.D.'s Maneater is one of the most fascinating books I've read as a med student, and one of the most captivating reads I've had in a long time. Her detailed explanation of various diseases that so many people are ignorant of was more intriguing and exciting than any lecture I've ever attended. I highly recommend it not only to the curious med student, but anyone who wants to learn how the simplest actions in life can prove to be the most deadly.
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Format: Hardcover
A good friend recommended this book as both an unusual yet impossible to put down biography. She was correct. Dr. Nagami describes what life is like for a doctors who work with the diseases other doctors don't want to, or know how to treat. Stuff like flesh eating strep, wild parasites and worms, chickenpox etc. This is truly one of the best bio's I've had my hands on because Dr. Nagami not only describes the guts and glory of her work but details an unusual human side to life in the diseased world. Her perspective was very different from what I had guessed. This book makes you think about life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Woman with a Worm in Her Head: And Other True Stories of Infectious Disease
By Pamela Nagami M.D., F. Gonzalez-Crussi

It’s become obvious to me that the more I enjoy reading a book, the faster I write the review — hence my writing this review a few weeks after finishing the book.

The Woman with a Worm in Her Head: And Other True Stories of Infectious Disease was well-written and quite interesting, but it left me confused as to what I was reading. Was I reading a book about Dr Nagami or was I reading a book about her work with infectious diseases?

This was one of the few books I’ve purchased based on Amazon Recommendations and the fact that it was highly rated by customers like myself who read the book. In fact, the title, “The Woman with a Worm in Her Head: And Other True Stories of Infectious Disease” implied that this book would be about the diseases, Dr Nagami’s diagnosis and the outcomes. Instead, I was treated to at least quarter to a third of this book being about Dr Nagami herself.

Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind reading about the long and tortuous road a physician travelled to receive an M.D. degree, but I just wish the book didn’t sell itself as a book about disease but a book about a doctor and disease.

A minor quibble, but one that I hope other publishers will heed. There are a number of readers who are interested in the subject, be it objective narratives such as those from Berton Roueche or Jonathan A. Edlow, M.D. book, “The Deadly Dinner Party: and Other Medical Detective Stories” or this book, “The Woman with a Worm in Her Head.” Please tell us what we are in for – we’ll make up our own minds as to if we want to read it or not.

Anyway, to the book itself. I enjoyed it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book had some very interesting stories about patients and disease. That said, it was also a self absorbed ode to Dr. Pam Nagami. Little details such as how "she suffered as much as her patients" really made me bristle. Do physicians get anxiety about treatment? Of course. And with the constant threat of being sued, I am sure it is worse than ever. But to claim to be suffering as much as someone on death's doorstep? No. Very pompous presumption.
The other odd thing about this book was the mundane details of her schedule. Did I care what her days off were? Or where and what she did with her children? No, I did not, and I doubt anyone would. Her editor should have caught these and eliminated them or at least made them fit the story. Perhaps even explain why the author felt it so necessary to include these details that only she and her friends and family might care about.
I prefer other books I've read about Infectious Diseases, of which there are many.
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