How do people become aware of vasculitis? Sometimes it’s a book; sometimes it’s knowing someone who has vasculitis. For Patrick Taylor, MD, New York Times bestselling author of the Irish Country Series books, it was both.
In the third book of the Series, An Irish Country Christmas, Mr. Taylor (he dropped his medical title when he retired) used his nephew’s real-life diagnosis of Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP) in the early 1970s to create a character of a young boy diagnosed with HSP in the tiny fictional town he created in his Irish Country series.
Beth Westbrook, VF Senior Director of Outreach, discovered the books while attending the 2022 Vasculitis Workshop in Dublin, Ireland. “As I was reading the story about the boy’s symptoms, I thought it sounded like HSP and it was. We see more and more references to vasculitis in books, on TV, and in the news now and I was curious to ask Mr. Taylor why he included the story about HSP in a book published in 2009.”
“I thought my nephew’s case was challenging, concerning an illness that readers might not know,” Mr. Taylor said. The good news is that both the young boy in the book and Taylor’s nephew made successful recoveries from HSP.
The Series of 15 books and a novella are set in the 1960s in Ballybucklebo, a fictional village near Belfast, Northern Ireland. The books center around the lives of the village’s general practitioners (GPs), Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, Dr. Barry Laverty, and other physicians, their housekeeper Mrs. Maureen (“Kinky”) Kincaid, and the many villagers who pop in and out of the storylines. Early in his medical career, Dr. Taylor practiced in a village similar to Ballybucklebo and used his experiences to develop the series.
Mr. Taylor retired from writing in 2021 with his last book, An Irish Country Yuletide, but graciously agreed to talk with us recently about his books and medical career. He trained as a doctor in Northern Ireland and then completed specialist training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. During this training, he moon-lighted in GP practice in the small village. He then went on to a distinguished career in medical research and teaching in human fertility in Canada.
He and his colleagues were instrumental in developing IVF treatments to help women become pregnant, and he has received several lifetime achievement awards in the field. He began writing the Irish Country Series in 2004 as a creative outlet after retiring from his medical career. Each book features stories about the doctors caring for patients and the village where they all live. The books are set in the 1960s before there were as many specialists, diagnostic tests, and procedures; GPs were responsible for diagnosing and treating many patients on their own. Not many years earlier, GPs would perform emergency surgery if needed.
Dianne Shaw, past president of the VF, has read all of the books. She said, “When someone needs a book that is a positive read with a warmhearted storyline, this is what I give them.” Mr. Taylor said in an interview with Kristen Sevick, his editor at Tor/Forge Books, “I am an old physician and when, as often happens, I get a letter telling me that my work has helped the author or a loved one to weather an illness or a difficult time in their lives, I do feel very gratified.”
We asked Mr. Taylor if he felt the outlook is changing for people with rare diseases such as vasculitis. He responded, “I am amazed by how much since the time I practiced the outlook has changed for the better for patients with vasculitis.”
The heart of the Vasculitis Foundation’s mission is to raise awareness of vasculitis among the general public. We thank Mr. Taylor for including HSP in the book and wish him a wonderful retirement. He and his wife, Dorothy Tinman, live on Salt Spring Island, north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Together, they co-authored The Irish Country Cookbook (2017) based on the recipes shared in the book series. His favorite meal is steak and kidneys!
Please visit his website to learn more about the author and his books.
Author: Joyce Kullman