Review & Book Tour: Saving Sammy

Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD
By Beth Alison Maloney
Crown Publishing Group
September 2009

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

The summer before entering sixth grade, Sammy, a bright and charming boy who lived on the coast of Maine, suddenly began to exhibit disturbing behavior. He walked and ate with his eyes shut, refused to bathe, burst into fits of rage, slithered against walls, and used his limbs instead of his hands to touch light switches, doorknobs, and faucets.

Sammy’s mother, Beth, already coping with the overwhelming responsibility of raising three sons alone, watched helplessly as her middle child descended into madness. Sammy was soon diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and later with Tourette syndrome. Unwilling to accept the doctors’ prognoses for lifelong mental illness and repeated hospitalizations, Beth fought to uncover what was causing this decline. Racing against time as Sammy slipped further from reality, Beth’s quest took her to the center of the medical community’s raging debate about whether mental illness can be caused by infection. With the battle lines firmly drawn, Beth searched until she found two cutting-edge doctors who answered that question with a definitive yes. Together, they cured Sammy. Five years later, he remains symptom free.

The Short of It:

A startling look at one family’s experience with obsessive-compulsive disorder and how a mother’s unwavering quest for a cure slowly brings about change within the medical community. Touching and well-told. This is a story with a purpose.

The Rest of It:

I picked this book up, read about ten pages and then could not put it down. I finished it in just a few sittings. Anyone with a child can relate to the difficulties of dealing with  a sick kid. There is nothing worse than seeing your son or daughter struggle through an illness, be it flu or something more serious. In this case though, Sammy is struck with obsessive-compulsive disorder and it hits him out of blue. One day he is well, and the next day he isn’t. It’s starts with little quirks. Sammy’s need to touch a wall as he passes, or his need to enter a room a certain way. His mother, Beth, chalks it up to being a kid. Sometimes kids do weird things. As time passes though, his need to do things a certain way become compulsions which take several hours to complete. Simple activities such as going to school because extremely complicated when it takes over two hours just to get him dressed and out the door.

After taking Sammy to psychiatrist with no success, Beth discovers through research and a conversation with a friend, that Strep is sometimes related to OCD. This prompts additional testing and an elevated strep titer is discovered which leads to a diagnosis of PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal). However, since the condition is fairly new, many of the doctors that Beth encounter, do not want to treat it as such even though Sammy seems to improve dramatically when the strep is treated.

This book was a bit of an eye opener for me. I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder a few years ago and the doctors at the time believed it to be caused by strep as I had an undiagnosed strep infection and the symptoms of the auto-immune disorder came on suddenly, nearly overnight. However, I didn’t believe that to be the cause and although I was treated for a common strep infection and went through one round of antibiotics, my symptoms did not improve and they began to treat me for Lupus. Over the course of  a year I have been treated off and on for strep as I have had three strep infections and no symptoms of strep, silent strep is what they call it. I’ve also been treated for Lupus though and now I seem to have a handle on it, but was strep really the cause? After reading Beth’s book, I tend to think it may have played a role in it.

What impressed me with this book is that no matter how dire the situation, Beth remained positive. Sure, she had doubts but she displayed incredible patience with not only Sammy but her other children as well. Her entire household was turned upside down by this and her willingness to put it all on the line for the sake of getting Sammy well really struck a chord with me.

What stuck out a bit for me was the lack of a father figure in most of Beth’s story. Sammy’s father does come into the picture towards the end of the book but with all that was going on, and with all that Beth had to endure, I kept waiting for the Sammy’s dad to make an appearance. They are divorced at the beginning of the story but with Sammy’s condition being so severe, I expected a bit more involvement from the dad.

Overall, I feel that this is a valuable story for anyone that is dealing with a sick child, even if their child’s illness is not OCD. The perseverance that Beth displayed and the textbook comments from  most of these doctors really make you question Western medicine as a whole.

Click here to visit the Saving Sammy website.

To check out Beth Maloney’s visit to the Today Show, click here.

To view Beth’s other TLC tour stops, click here.

Source: A big ‘thank you’ to TLC Book Tours for asking me to be a part of this tour and for providing me with a review copy of the book.

16 thoughts on “Review & Book Tour: Saving Sammy”

  1. It is awful to watch your child suffer, even from a cold. Can you even imagine going through this? Just recently, I got an up close look at this disease from Her Fearful Symmetry. You just don’t realize how debilitating OCD really is. I mean, I always joke that I have it, we all do that, but the reality is nothing to laugh at. Excellent review!

  2. I saw a video of Sammy and that’s made me really interested in this book. You really do have to be your own health care advocate these days and it can be so frustrating.

  3. HI Ti, I’m really glad the book struck a chord with you. As mother’s we need to be advocates for our children (and for our own health as well) and not just accept things doctors tell us if we feel that what we’re being told isn’t right.

    Thanks so much for the time spent reading and reviewing this book. We appreciate it so much.

  4. Wow, I’m going to have to read this. My oldest battled strep infections his freshman year of high school and I’m wondering now if some of his other problems might not have been a result of the strep never having fully been resolved.

  5. This sounds more horrifying than any horror book I read about. I can’t even imagine going through this … and it scared me because my son is prone to getting strep. And it does make you wonder about medicine.

    1. I just saw the author on my local news channel. Sammy was with her and she shared video of his behavior prior to treatment. It was difficult to watch but he is a handsome, young man now and symptom free!

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