SAVING SAMMY: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD by Beth Alison Maloney

Book Quote:

“Tears [are] making tracks on his cheeks.  The cheeks I want to take between my hands and smother with kisses filled with love.  The kisses that will push away the hurt.  The cheeks I cannot touch, or he will have to do another round of compulsions.  The cheeks I love with all my heart, with every inch of me, because they are my darling son’s, and it is killing me to see him in such pain.””

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (SEP 22, 2009)

Are your kids healthy and happy? If so, you are way ahead of the game. Just ask Beth Alison Maloney, whose son, Sammy, came down with a mysterious malady at the age of twelve. He started yelling at the treetops and the squirrels, refused to go into bed at night, could not enter or exit through the front door of his home, and did not allow anyone to touch him. Beth, who is a single parent with three brilliant and personable boys, had just moved to a new house in Kennebunkport, Maine. (The scenery is gorgeous, and Maloney eloquently describes the wondrous beauty of Maine throughout the seasons.) When Sammy changes so drastically, Beth assumes that the boy is distressed about the move or angry about his parents’ divorce. Perhaps, she thought, he is acting out as an expression of his displeasure.

Unfortunately, as time goes by, Sammy’s behavior becomes more extreme and compulsive (head banging, twitching, hopping, verbal tics, difficulty getting in and out of a van, among others). Beth’s life comes to a standstill and her other children, James and Josh, are adversely affected by Sammy’s constant need for attention. Since Sammy cannot attend school regularly, Beth is on duty 24/7, aghast at her child’s ever worsening condition and desperate to come up with a strategy to help him. Soon, Sammy is unable to sleep, eat normally, or even take a shower. Psychological counseling and a high dose of an anti-depressant do not help. When Beth tells Sammy to stop acting so bizarrely, he replies hysterically, “I can’t! It’s like a mental itch!” Beth finds it hard to accept that her son had become unhinged out of the blue and that he could stay this way for the rest of his life. Her pleasures (including socializing, kayaking on the beautiful waters of Maine, and even enjoying a restful night in bed) take a back seat to finding the answers that she needs.

Life might have continued in this vein indefinitely if someone had not tipped Beth off to the possibility that her son’s obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette-like symptoms may stem from an undiagnosed strep infection. Beth embarks on a frustrating odyssey, visiting one doctor after another until she at last learns what is really wrong with Sammy. This is a heartbreaking and, ultimately, inspiring and hopeful book about a mother whose love for her child impels her to become his champion at school, in doctors’ offices, and wherever he needs an advocate. She accomplishes a great deal by networking, surfing the Internet, and finally, locating a developmental pediatrician in New Jersey and a child psychiatrist in Boston who proved to be godsends.

Maloney’s tenacity, selfless devotion, and intelligence shine through; readers will cheer for this courageous and loving mother. Beth made a vow and she has kept it. If Sammy were to get well, she promised, she would publicize his case so that other children who are suffering needlessly might also receive the help they need. Saving Sammy is a poignant story of a family in crisis, and it highlights how mysterious the world of medicine still is. Even with all of our technological advances, sometimes it all comes down to a great diagnostician who realizes that the most improbable answer can be the right one. Beth says, “There are some people who can do more for you in an hour than others can do in a lifetime.”

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 32 readers
PUBLISHER: Crown; 1 edition (September 22, 2009)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AMAZON PAGE: Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Beth Alison Maloney
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More books like this one:

Every Patient Tells a Story by Lisa Sanders

Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon


September 22, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: NE & New York, Non-fiction

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