Nurses share their stories in new collection of essays

June 10, 2013
MEMOIR
Traveling through the ‘Land of the Sick’
‘The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic,’ by Nora Gallagher

“Darn.” Not exactly the word you want to hear from your doctor, but that’s exactly the reaction Nora Gallagher received at an eye exam in 2009.

This single word — and the headaches, queasiness, fatigue and blurriness in her right eye — sends Gallagher on a two-year journey through Oz, the Land of the Sick, as she calls it in “The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic.”

The memoir is part medical mystery, part critique of the American health-care system and part commentary on modern faith. “Doctors were often baffled; the system of specialists who did not follow up on patients made it worse,” Gallagher writes.

She visits specialists who call her symptoms idiopathic, or without known cause, and Googles her symptoms with terrifying results.

She sits in waiting rooms across the country, endures countless exams, tests and procedures, and worries about going blind and about being a burden on others. “I was embarrassed to be sick,” she writes. “I felt I had failed in some fundamental way.”

It is only when she ends up at the Mayo Clinic that she finds answers to not only her health crisis but also her crisis of faith.

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