Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole

  • by Brian David Burrell, Dr. Allan H. Ropper
  • Narrated by Paul Boehmer
  • 9 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"Tell the doctor where it hurts." It sounds simple enough, unless the problem affects the very organ that produces awareness and generates speech. What is it like to try to heal the body when the mind is under attack? Like Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Allan H. Ropper inhabits a world where absurdities abound:


A figure skater whose body has become a ticking time-bomb
A salesman who drives around and around a traffic rotary, unable to get off
A college quarterback who can't stop calling the same play
A mother of two young girls, diagnosed with ALS, who has to decide whether a life locked inside her own head is worth living
How does one begin to treat such cases, to counsel people whose lives may be changed forever? How does one train the next generation of clinicians to deal with the moral and medical aspects of brain disease? Dr. Ropper and his colleague answer these questions by taking the listener into a rarified world where lives and minds hang in the balance.

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What the Critics Say

"The author explores a wide variety of conditions, including the exterior degeneration of ALS and the often befuddling symptoms of advanced brain trauma, but he rarely falls into jargon and always keeps the narrative lively and engaging." (Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

What An Absolute Surprise!

I'd been ready to give this book 3-stars as, for 4-stars, a book has to be an engrossing cover-to-cover listen, and this wasn't. It'd been... too folksy? or something with its narration? But as I was kinda zipping through it again to get some stories for my review, well, talk about engrossed! One would've thought I'd never heard it before! It was so engaging! The things I liked about it before, I loved: people faking blindness and neurologists catching them out by sticking notes on their foreheads that read, "F- You," or by waving $100 bills around were there. The things I disliked, I passionately hated (hey, passion's a good thing!): glib mea culpas for what is really heinous malpractice--yup, still there, pretty cool. Emotionally evocative stories about two people facing the horrors of ALS in entirely different ways, and a man making a difficult, difficult decision that turns out to have a devastating outcome despite everyone's best efforts. These are all things a neurologist sees day in day out, and it's utterly fascinating.
And heartbreaking.
Yeah, sometimes the narration is quaint and folksy, but this book is really interesting, really a treat.
Credit-worthy!
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- Gillian

Neuro Stories, Fascinating & Educational

Anyone with an interest in medicine--especially anyone interested in neurology--would love this. I actually liked it even better than One Doctor, by Brendan Reilly (a book I liked so well that I gave a copy to our beloved family doctor of 26 years when he retired this year). The only downsides: the chapter on ALS goes on so long you'll be tempted to skip past it; the chapter on brain death vs body death annoyingly never even mentions cessation of heartbeat/pulse in a seemingly endless recitation of Ways Most People Would Judge Whether Somebody's Dead; and the narrator's delivery is jarringly cheerful at times in a way horribly at odds with the material, as in the chapter in which the author relates a particularly tragic and troubling tale of borderline malpractice. (The narrator also mispronounces several key medical terms in a way that will grate on the nerves of anyone who knows, for example, that Guillain-Barre is not pronounced "GEEL-on BAR-ray.") Otherwise: This is a solid, absorbing and supremely educational listen, and there are even a few laughs. Grade: A.
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- Gretchen SLP

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-30-2014
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio