The Autumn Ghost: How the Bat­tle Against a Polio Epi­dem­ic Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Mod­ern Med­ical Care

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2021

A sus­pense­ful, author­i­ta­tive account of how the bat­tle against a mid-cen­tu­ry polio epi­dem­ic sparked a rev­o­lu­tion in med­ical care. In The Autumn Ghost, Dr. Han­nah Wun­sch traces the ori­gins of two inno­va­tions (ICUs and mechan­i­cal ven­ti­la­tion) back to a polio epi­dem­ic in the autumn of 1952. This vivid, grip­ping tale of an epi­dem­ic that changed the world includes a riv­et­ing sec­tion on the Dan­ish doc­tors who used their free­dom of move­ment to admit Jew­ish patients into the hos­pi­tal with bland diag­noses and smug­gle them out to safe­ty, often to Swe­den. These doc­tors brave­ly sub­vert­ed Nazi con­trol to save 7,220 Jews — and their dar­ing and inno­v­a­tive think­ing while work­ing under scarci­ty came into play sev­en years lat­er when Den­mark was hit with a polio epi­dem­ic. This is an ori­gin sto­ry” that the author, her­self Jew­ish, likens to Mar­vel Comics: There are the ori­gin sto­ries for Cap­tain Amer­i­ca and Iron Man, and there’s the ori­gin sto­ry for mechan­i­cal stu­dents” (ven­ti­la­tors) and inten­sive care. The Autumn Ghost tells the ori­gin sto­ry of the heroes of the ICU. It also includes the sto­ry of FDR and dis­abil­i­ty acces­si­bil­i­ty that he helped pioneer.

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