ForeWord Reviews

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Ticked

A Medical Miracle, a Friendship, and the Weird World of Tourette Syndrome

Foreword Review — Summer 2013

Journalist and sufferer himself joins man with Tourette’s on astounding journey to find a medical miracle for “the funhouse mirror of maladies.”

Tourette syndrome affects an estimated three million people in the United States alone, yet most Americans, including the medical community, still know very little about this condition that causes a variety of physical and vocal tics, odd behaviors, and obsessive compulsions. For some sufferers, Tourette’s is a nonstop nightmare. In Ticked: A Medical Miracle, a Friendship, and the Weird World of Tourette Syndrome, award-winning journalist James Fussell brings to light the amazing story of Jeff Matovic and how deep brain stimulation (DBS) saved him from the constant, excruciating pain that Tourette’s inflicted upon him.

After years of interviewing the down-and-out and their turn-around, happy endings, Fussell never found his own contentment until a chance interview with Oprah led him to Jeff Matovic. Also a sufferer of Tourette’s syndrome, the journalist alternates between Matovic’s and his own experiences with the condition. Along the way, he finds one parallel after another, from the agony of full-body spasms and the “dream crusher” doctors who prescribed countless prescriptions with little effect, to being the endless victim of bullying and contemplating suicide. As both a keen observer and a victim himself, Fussell offers an in-depth account of what he calls “the funhouse mirror of maladies.”

The latter half of the book begins to focus on Matovic and his desperate search for a neurosurgeon willing to try DBS. While the procedure had been used in patients with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, and other neurological movement disorders, it had never been performed successfully on someone with Tourette’s. Fussell takes readers step by step through the highs and lows of the procedure, including background stories on the pioneering neurosurgeons who took Matovic’s case to heart, his acceptance of death should the operation fail, and his exposed brain as doctors meticulously check synapse after synapse to find the source of his Tourette’s.

Although the book’s subtitle prepares readers for a true medical miracle, the descriptions of Matovic’s new abilities to drive a car, walk down a flight of stairs, or even drink from a glass without violent tics overtaking these simple actions extend beyond heartrending. While the book could end with Matovic’s victory, Fussell depicts the strong bond the two men will always share and how one individual can offer hope to countless others. More than a story of living with Tourette’s syndrome, Ticked is an astounding journey of survival that will inspire readers for years to come.

Angela Leeper