The Woman with a Worm in Her Head And Other True Stories of Infectious Disease

Pamela Nagami, M.D.; Foreword by F. Gonzalez-Crussi

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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Most of us think nothing of that salad for lunch, that insect bite, that swim in the sea; yet these all bring human beings into contact with dangerous, even deadly microorganisms. In The Woman with a Worm in Her Head, Nagami discusses the shocking and amazing cases of bacterial and viral infections she has encountered in her career as an infectious disease specialist. Through personal accounts, she reveals the facts about some of the deadliest diseases: the warning signs, treatments, and most compellingly, what it feels like to make the medical and ethical decisions that can mean the difference between life and death. With a Foreword by F. Gonzalez-Crussi, Emeritus Professor of Pathology.


Praise for The Woman with a Worm in Her Head

"Nagami zooms in like a microscope on infections. She presents them, with all their drama, in the context of how they alter patients' and doctors' lives. Along the way, she conveys an amazing amount of medical information that's easy to absorb. Using her sharp storytelling skills, she illustrates for us how vulnerable we all are to microscopic intruders and how having the right doctor on our side can mean the difference between living and becoming another statistic in the morbidity reports."—Jane E. Allen, Los Angeles Times

"In the tradition of Microbe Hunters, The Woman with a Worm in Her Head is a fascinating account of a physician's struggles on behalf of her patients against the terrifying underworld of infectious diseases. Dr. Nagami is a compelling writer whose insatiable curiosity about bacteria and viruses never comes at the expense of those who suffer from them."—Frank Huyler, M.D., author of The Blood of Strangers

"The Woman with a Worm in Her Head brings us the excitement of the fight against infections, the human drama that surrounds their impact, and helps us understand how to avoid them. The reader will be swept up in the detective story behind finding the culprits and the human story that surrounds each case. This book successfully explores the interface between the sick patient and the all-too-human physician who comes with implacable weapons of modern medical technology, but more important, her own feelings, strengths, and weaknesses."—C.J. Peters, M.D., author of Virus Hunter

"A physician of great medical skills and writing talent . . . Nagami, in her fine book, conveys her humanness, warmth, and caring concern as a physician, and as a person. She helps reestablish our faith in medical practice. After reading The Woman with a Worm in Her Head, at the first sign of microbial invasion you would want to call her to take care of you. I know I would."—Robert S. Desowitz, Ph.D., author of The Malaria Capers

iThe Woman with a Worm in Her Head] the vigor of hope is preserved, even in the face of the final incapacity. The depth of a humane vision is maintained to the end. The physician's own failings and shortcomings (for there is a limit to medical skills, despite the much-vaunted progress) are made into a route of escape from a ruinous sense of superiority . . . We all enjoy the physician's chronicle of the mighty struggle. It is a war that concerns us all, whose episodes are always fascinating. All the more so when told, as in these pages directly, truthfully, and clearly, by a front-line veteran."—F. Gonzalez-Crussi, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Pathology (from the foreword to Maneater)

"Gripping . . . clear and engaging . . . if you can stand excursions into the gut-wrenching, high-risk precincts of medical science, you will read and enjoy this from beginning to end."—Arno Karlen, The Washington Post

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Pamela Nagami, M.D.; Foreword by F. Gonzalez-Crussi

  • Pamela Nagami received her M.D. from Yale University in 1976. She is clinical associate professor of medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine and staff physician in internal medicine and infectious diseases with the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. She practices at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.

    Dr. Nagami is the author of book chapters, articles, and abstracts within her specialty. Her chapter on infectious diseases in Current Emergency Diagnosis and Treatment is a standard medical reference and is used in many emergency rooms worldwide. She lives with her husband, Glenn Nagami, M.D., and their two children in Encino, California.