Genes, Blood, and Courage: A Boy Called Immortal Sword

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Harvard University Press, 1995 - Biography & Autobiography - 276 pages

David Nathan was stunned when he first saw Dayem Saif at Children's Hospital in Boston in September 1968. Dayem was then a six-year-old with the stature of an average-sized boy of two. He wore baby shoes on his tiny feet and was unable to walk without holding his mother's hand. His color was dark yet pasty and his face horribly misshapen. The child was being ravaged by thalassemia, a life-threatening inherited disease of the blood, and one of the leading causes of disfigurement, disability, and death in children worldwide. Without effective treatment, Dayem would almost certainly die before his twentieth birthday.

Genes, Blood, and Courage is David Nathan's absorbing story of the thirty-year struggle to keep Dayem alive. "Immortal Sword" is the English translation of Dayem's Arabic name, and under Nathan's care Dayem, indeed, seems immortal. Despite his continual reluctance to follow his doctor's orders and the repeated hospitalizations that result, Dayem--the misshapen, stunted boy--survives to become a handsome, successful businessman.

In Genes, Blood, and Courage Nathan goes beyond his struggles with this seemingly immortal patient to describe in detail the emergence, over the past twenty-five years, of an entirely new force in medical care called molecular medicine. As Dayem's case illustrates, this new area of human genetic research--in which Nathan is a leading clinical investigator--promises tremendous advances in the rational diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of inherited disorders, such as thalassemia and sickle cell anemia, and even of acquired illnesses such as cancer and infectious disease.

Genes, Blood, and Courage is a celebration not just of Dayem's triumphs but also of the tremendous accomplishments and potential of the American biomedical research enterprise in the late twentieth century.

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Genes, blood, and courage: a boy called Immortal Sword

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In discussing the advances being made in the treatment of the genetic blood disorder thalassemia, most common in the Mediterranean and Middle East, physician Nathan's very readable and engrossing ... Read full review


The First Meeting
Killer or Savior
Banned in Boston

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About the author (1995)

David G. Nathan, M.D., was until recently the president of the Dana-Farber Institute, one of the world's leading centers for cancer research and treatment, and the physician-in-chief of the Children's Hospital in Boston. He is a Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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