I Am Perhaps Dying

The Medical Backstory of Spinal Tuberculosis Hidden in the Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham
Narrated by: Ben Collins
Length: 5 hrs and 1 min
4.5 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Invalid teenager Leroy Wiley Gresham left a seven-volume diary spanning the years of secession and the Civil War (1860-1865). He was just 12 when he began, and he died at 17, just weeks after the war ended. His remarkable account, recently published as The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865, edited by Janet E. Croon (2018), spans the gamut of life events that were of interest to a precocious and well-educated Southern teenager - including military, political, religious, social, and literary matters of the day. This alone ranks it as an important contribution to our understanding of life and times in the Old South. But it is much more than that. Chronic disease and suffering stalk the young writer, who is never told he is dying until just before his death.

Dr. Rasbach, a graduate of Johns Hopkins medical school and a practicing general surgeon with more than three decades of experience, was tasked with solving the mystery of LeRoy’s disease. Like a detective, Dr. Rasbach peels back the layers of mystery by carefully examining the medical-related entries. What were LeRoy’s symptoms? What medicines did doctors prescribe for him? What course did the disease take, month after month, year after year? The author ably explores these and other issues in I Am Perhaps Dying to conclude that the agent responsible for LeRoy’s suffering and demise turns out to be Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a tiny but lethal adversary of humanity since the beginning of recorded time.

In the second half of the 19th century, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accounting for one-third of all deaths. Even today, a quarter of the world’s population is infected with TB, and the disease remains one of the top 10 causes of death, claiming 1.7 million lives annually, mostly in poor and underdeveloped countries.

While the young man was detailing the decline and fall of the Old South, he was also chronicling his own horrific demise from spinal TB. These five years of detailed entries make LeRoy’s diary an exceedingly rare (and perhaps unique) account from a 19th-century TB patient. LeRoy’s diary offers an inside look at a fateful journey that robbed an energetic and likeable young man of his youth and life. I Am Perhaps Dying adds considerably to the medical literature by increasing our understanding of how tuberculosis attacked a young body over time, how it was treated in the middle 19th century, and the effectiveness of those treatments. 

©2018 Dennis A. Rasbach (P)2018 Savas Beatie

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Redundant

This is the first book I have read/listened to by this author.
I have mixed feelings about this book. The information on how Tuberculosis was treated and the effectiveness of those treatments was interesting. I think it could have been completed in half the time.
Unfortunately, many things were repeated almost word for word. I am sure the diary has some interesting passages, but the only ones quoted were basically the same - about how his legs hurt and how he’s not improving. Several quotes were made at one point and it was the same thing over and over.
This book was about uncovering the cause of Leroy’s illness. As the doctor “peeled back the layers of the mystery” they also stated Leroy’s doctors knew all along what he was suffering from. No mystery then. To clarify or delve into , as they do, the various treatments is great, but to write as though they are diagnosing when he was already diagnosed, was for me, irritating.

This is the first book I have listened to by this narrator ( Ben Collins ) and I think he did a fine job narrating this content.

There are no explicit sex scenes, excessive violence or swearing.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and voluntarily left this unbiased review.
Please feel free to comment on whether you found my review helpful.

Story 2.5/5
Narration 4/5

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Mostly As A Companion to The War Outside My Window

‘Cause if you haven’t read that, you might be dead in the water with I Am Perhaps Dying. This book by Dr. Rasbach chronicles LeRoy’s many illnesses, primarily his tuberculosis (at least that’s his diagnosis based on the “cures” LeRoy was undergoing, and his journal entries of symptoms). It can get pretty technical, not exactly for the layman, but if you already know LeRoy Wiley Gresham from his diaries, it’ll be of interest to you. The poor kid went through a lot in his desperate and short life. If you haven’t heard of him, you might think he’s a total whiner as the only parts of his diary that are narrated here are of his ailments, not his take on history and the ongoing Civil War.

It can get pretty repetitive too. Alum water as a cure is mentioned in the first part, then in the second section, then it’s explained again. Same goes with alcohol and with opium and with many other medicines used. Then there are diary entries read in part as they relate to what Rasbach is discussing which go on to be read in full for the last two hours of the book where every single day has been mined to find LeRoy’s complaints for that day.

I guess I should say: that gets to be pretty sad, and one wonders what living with so debilitated an individual did to his parents who had to stand by and watch. Plus, they never told LeRoy about his diagnosis (for, though there was no understanding of TB, there certainly was the understanding of the death sentence consumption doled out), so he was unaware of his fate. There are many, many entries where he speaks: I hope this soon goes away; I wonder when I’ll be better, etc. etc. It’s not until eight days before his death that he comes to realize what the title of this audiobook states.

Ben Collins does a good job with the narration. The litany of complaints could come off as whiny, but instead, we feel LeRoy as a confused boy/young man, one who is very tired of being exhausted and of living in pain. Plus, there is a rather amusing section where the text from advertisements for the “cures” of the day are read, and you kinda get that snake-oil salesman feel from his tones.

As a companion to LeRoy’s diaries, I Am Perhaps Dying is fairly interesting. But you HAVE to read that first or justice will not be done to LeRoy’s work and memory.

I received a free book in exchange for this honest and unbiased review

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fantastic content and narrator!

This is a detailed account of a boy dying from spinal TB. The author did a great job taking the entires from LeRoy’s journal and incorporating current medical knowledge to diagnose LeRoy with TB. The narrator did a spectacular job brining the book to life! I couldn’t stop listening!

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Oh! The Suffering.

This is the story of a young man who suffered terribly from an early age with a disease that was not well understood at the time. The attempts to cure the disease or simply to relieve the pain, generally always brought on more pain and suffering. Some of the "medicines and cures" used in that day and time border on comical, but it was anything but comical to the those enduring it. So sad. Thank God, modern medicine can alleviate so much of the suffering today. Else we might still be experiencing what young Leroy Gresham did.

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I am perhaps dying

This was a fascinating book!I had no idea TB could be this awful.A very brave teenager indeed. Ben Collins was a fine narrator.I was given this book by the narrator,author or publisher free for an honest review.

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For the medical/technical minded

This book was a little different than what I expected, but it truly is what is says, a book about the disease and the records of it that this young man left behind in his journal. Has lots of information concerning what the young man suffered, what his symptoms were and the treatments that were administered. Lot of information about this forgotten disease. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

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  • KD
  • 11-08-18

Amazing read

Very powerful. At the age of 12 things like death seem like an after thought. Not so for LeRoy. At the age of 12 he knew something was wrong with him and he kept a diary up until then. Modern science has not gotten rid of Tuberculosis and it still vexes us today. To be 12 during the civil was and having to deal with that knowing the next day mgiht be his last. I'm shocked that someone was able to keep the motivation to write in his journal as he did.

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I am perhaps in tears

A young man lay dying, his life slipping away bit by bit, and he chronicled his own demise.

Please be aware that this title is NOT the actual diary of LeRoy himself. It is selections from his remarkable diary; specifically, it is only the parts of his diary that dealt with his health. And what an eye-opening selection it is. We learn about the various medicines that were prescribed and taken by the patient. We learn about the "issues" created on his back, and how they did and did not work for the patient. We hear increasing despair in the patient's voice as he slowly gives up hope for his condition ever improving.

Even with the focus on just his health issues, this is a compelling read. I found it hard to walk away from, and I was left with a sense of loss at the last entry: I am perhaps dying. That last sentence is so poignant because the reader has known all along what is happening, but it is only now that the patient himself realizes the truth. I am incredibly grateful for modern medicines and the advances made in health care since the 1860's. I am also going to search out and read the complete diary.

I received this book at my request and am leaving a fair and unbiased review in return.

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Detaile view into medicine during the Civil War.

Very interesting view into the medical treatments given during the time of the Civil War for TB. The author giving details on what the different medications and treatments did and how they are related to modern medicine was educational, though I would have liked even more detail, the amount given is a good balance for many audience types. I enjoyed the fact that the information was recorded by the patient. The book allows the reader to see and feel as the patient slowly loses his confidence and will as his symptoms get worse and treatments don't work, but still try's to participate in life. I definitely plan on reading "The War Outside My Window" now to learn more about his life and the war through his eyes.

"This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review."

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very interesting

This was a very interesting and we'll documented case of a terminally ill patient and the struggles with the medical treatment available during the civil was , wow has medicine came a long way the book had great quality narration and was an easy listen, I would recommend this book.