The Fight to Survive: A Young Girl's Struggle with Diabetes and the Discovery of Insulin

Caroline Cox, Author . Kaplan $26.95 (254p) ISBN 978-1-60714-551-6

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.)

Reviewed on: 09/14/2009
Release date: 11/01/2009
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