Jeff Baggish decodes the immune systemA few decades ago...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

January 15, 1995|By Sandra Crockett

Jeff Baggish decodes the immune system

A few decades ago, people in the medical profession probably would have been the only ones interested in a book explaining the body's immune system. But that has changed with AIDS, the deadly disease that attacks the immune system.

To help ordinary people understand this complex subject, Dr. Jeff Baggish has written "How Your Immune System Works" (Ziff-Davis Press, 1994, $19.95), which can be found in local bookstores.

"People are interested in the immune system because of the AIDS epidemic," says Dr. Baggish. "It's a difficult topic, but I put it in layman's terms."

Dr. Baggish, who lives in northwest Baltimore County, has been interested in the immune system since his medical school days. He joined with Ziff-Davis Press, a company that publishes a series of "how it works" books.

The 153-page soft-cover book is liberally illustrated with colorful drawings, while complicated medical jargon is kept to a minimum.

The first-time author explains the immune system as "an amazingly intricate collection of specialized and not-so-specialized cells, organs and structures, the mission of which is to identify and destroy foreign invaders before harm is done to the body."

Other immune-system diseases include allergies and asthma, multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and such cancers as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, says Dr. Baggish.

Dr. Baggish isn't saying the book is the final word on the immune system. "But people who don't have any medical background will be able to understand the immune system," he says.

Dr. Baggish is currently working on a second book, which explains the prostate gland.

@ It's one thing to volunteer to drive strangers to hospitals for their cancer treatments. You probably don't get to know the person well, and nothing more is required of you.

It's another to carry a mother of two children from your car door to the hospital door.

She's too sick with throat cancer to walk herself. You probably get to know someone better when holding the fading weight of her body in your arms.

Joe Boone did.

"Oh, yes. It's different," says Mr. Boone, a 70-year-old retired school administrator from Bel Air. Since 1988, he's volunteered to drive cancer patients to hospitals, as part of the American Cancer Society's "Road to Recovery Program."

Mr. Boone usually keeps his emotional distance from the people he drives -- patients who sometimes have required 20 or 30 trips to hospitals for radiation therapy.

"You don't let your emotions get carried away. If you did, you'd have someone always pulling on your heart strings," says Mr. Boone, who taught in the Harford County school system for 19 years.

But in the case of the mother of two, he couldn't help but ignore his own advice. The woman, by the way, died a few years ago.

The subject of cancer evokes thoughts of death, pain, prevention, recovery and medical bills, but not transportation. What Mr. Boone and other Maryland volunteers offer is a little thing, in a way. They give people a ride.

Many patients don't have cars, are too sick to drive, or simply don't have anyone to take them on the numerous trips to hospitals.

That's why the American Cancer Society continues to need more volunteer drivers, specifically ones for the society's Hope Lodge in downtown Baltimore, which houses people with cancer.

For more information, call the American Cancer Society at (410) 931-6850.

Rob Hiaasen

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