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One Last Goodbye by Kay Gilderdale is a book which I found distressing to read, but one that I would recommend to anyone who is interested to understand something behind the confusing picture that life with severe ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) can present. For decades now the media, in particular, has portrayed the disease as a psychological affliction. This deeply affected the way that the family in this book were treated both by the medical profession and the community with tragic consequences. This book has particular relevance as what is not widely known is that there are approximately 25% who fall into the severe category. Some are housebound and some are bed bound, many live in isolation abandoned by the medical profession.
Lynn was only 14 when she became ill following a BCG injection and a series of viral infections. What followed was 17 years of utter misery in which all of her bodily systems were failing. One night Lynn attempted suicide and Kay her mother assisted after being repeatedly begged to do so. Until I read this book I simply could not understand how a mother could possibly act in this way, giving up on all hope and respecting her daughter's wishes. Having two daughters myself the thought of losing either of them fills me with utter fear and desolation. However, having read the book, and suffering from moderate to severe ME myself, I began to understand how these events unfolded. I decided that I could not judge her actions, but rather try to comprehend the circumstances. In doing so I began to see the suffering that Lynn endured, and calm descended over me knowing she was free from all the pain, and her mother Kay was left to grieve for ever. It left such a deep image in my mind- one that I will never forget.
I read this book on a 10 hour flight on the way to the Maldives last summer. I sat watching the clouds pass by thinking how lucky I was to be able to make the journey at all, as many times over the last fifteen years I have been bed bound for weeks on end. I am one of the lucky ones as I can rest and gain energy and sometimes gain some control of my destiny through pacing - Lynn was not so lucky.
The book is an easy read in terms of the flow and the words. The first three chapters are lightweight and set the scene describing the family and their way of life. I think this section is important as they were an ordinary family with a happy background. The book then details Lynn's illness which progresses rapidly into a serious case of ME in which she quickly becomes paralysed. and over subsequent years she loses the ability to swallow and had to be tube fed. I think this book is an important read as it details many of the physical symptoms and medical complications that affected Lynn. By the time she died she had adrenal failure as well as severe osteoporosis. Her heart was also failing.
Over the years Lynn was in hospital in excess of fifty times, and by the time she died she had so many medical complications that her quality of life was negligible. In Lynn's eyes she was broken. Kay explained that she said to her "I really can't go on I am too broken. You can't fix me any more. We have to do something." It was not an isolated occasion that desperation set in but it was becoming more intense with every passing day. I really value the way in which Kay documents this as she simply relates events. She isn't looking for anyone to let her off her actions but simply wants the story to be told as it was. It would have been so easy to write a book simply to clear her name and sideline herself from any guilt or involvement.
The night she passes away is sensitively written and I went from thinking how could she help in such a dreadful act to a degree of acceptance. The tragic end comes after the book so eloquently portrays the suffering and the years of agony that this act releases.
Of course this final act sets in place a chain of events leading to the trial in which Kay is accused of assisted suicide. The way this is portrayed in the book is harrowing as Kay battles guilt and fear as well as grief and desperation.
I have no doubt that this book presents a challenge to anyone who reads it but I don't think Kay is looking for judgements or forgiveness, but simply to air the story which is mirrored in darkened rooms all over the world where sufferers lie in pain. Extreme cases of the disease thankfully are rare but they exist, and they present medical challenges that push boundaries to their limits.
At the inquest it was reported that Lynn had "dorsal root ganglionitis" which are tombs of dead infected cells in her spinal cord. These would have given her so much pain. It's a long way from yuppie flu.
I picked tropical flowers for Lynn on my holiday and I placed them in the ocean and watched as they floated out to sea. I know she is free from all her pain now but her mum will never find peace for I am sure her nights are far from calm re-visiting events and lost dreams. I thought I would judge her but I didn't. I just know that the way this book is written is all for Lynn and the many who suffer as she did.
This review is also published on Ciao under my user name Violet1278
Biographies generally aren't my kind of book, however when I saw this book written by Kay Gilderdale I had to have it. Partly because I love books that tackle difficult subjects which this did without any doubt and partly because I remembered her case from when it was in the news and wanted to 'hear' her side without all the media and press twisting the story.
Some of you may remember the case which eventually reached an outcome in January 2010. I won't say which way the case went for fear of ruining the book, however Kay Gilderdale was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of her daughter Lynn Gilderdale who was 31 and had been seriously ill with ME since the age of 14. Hers was the first assisted suicide case that had gone to trial with a jury.
The book starts by detailing Kay's life through her childhood and teenage years. This takes up the first two chapters of the book before she moves on to talk about her two children. Steve, her oldest and Lynn her youngest. The majority of the book focused on Lynn's illness and the struggles that came with that.
I loved this book. I came to it with a memory of the case (although I had forgotten the outcome and so this didn't ruin it for me) and also with an opinion on assisted suicide. As far as I'm concerned although there does need to be safeguards to protect vulnerable people assisted suicide should be legal. If a person with a sound mind has decided that they're in too much pain and too ill to have a good quality of life then they should be given the right to choose to end it. Animals have that right, why shouldn't humans?
Anyway, Dooyoo has a whole other area for my opinion of assisted suicide. This is supposed to be my review of the book but I do think that my opinion of associated suicide matters as it means that I came to this book with a certain mindset that affected the way I read it. My sympathies lay with Lynn and Kay both, life threw them a curveball that they clearly found very difficult to cope with and I don't blame them. I think any one of us would find a life struggling with ME and being as sick with it as she was difficult to cope with and I guess in that situation you do what you have to do get through but I still don't know how they coped for as long as they did.
Several times throughout the book I found myself on the verge of tears and I'm used to reading true life stories about abuse and difficult life situations and very rarely do they move me to tears so the fact that this did is a testiment to the way it's written. There are also pictures about half the way through which brings home the reality of the situation as there are photos of Lynn both before and after the illness. Reading about it is one thing but seeing the reality of it in picture form really bought it home for me and made me realize the situation this family were trying to live with. The only problem here is that the comment by one photo gives away the outcome of the case so don't read this if you don't want to know!
The love Kay feels towards Lynn is almost palpable throughout the entirity of the book and she doesn't shy away from her actions relating to Lynn's death. In fact she talks almost candidly admitting everything she did. Lynn's strength of character really shows through and I found myself really warming to her as the book went on.
Book details are:
There are 334pages
I bought my copy from ASDA as a part of a two for £7 offer but it is available on Amazon for £4.67.
There is also a kindle edition which costs £4.44
Overall this is a book I loved and will reread over and over again. By no stretch of the imagination is this light reading but I do think it's a book worth reading anyway and I found it to be an extremely well written book that despite dealing with a difficult subject isn't too heavy going so I have no hesitation recommending it to everyone.
If however you are not sure you could take this kind of book a snippet can be found here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1379005/ Kay-Gilderdale-The-deeply-moving-story-mother- accused-murdering-sick-child.html Remove the space before Kay abd accused. I had to add these to meet the character limit. Again though this does give away the outcome of the case so avoid if you don't want to know before reading.