in Centrifugal Force by Lisa Lickel
I love odd medical conditions and researching them. I was a big fan of human anomalies before the 1990s and 2000s television shows X Files and House, MD. Truth is generally more bizarre than fiction. But for that reason, we authors must remain in the realm of reasonable disbelief so our readers can submerse themselves in our worlds.
In Centrifugal Force, Gervas Friedemann, our hero, has an ulterior motive for visiting America. He is also looking for a cure for his daughter’s rare condition, which happens to have a research study for treatment going on in Madison, Wisconsin. I chose Fanconi Anemia upon seeking rare conditions which were genetic in nature. I needed Gervas to hold a lot of guilt on numerous levels. What more horrible feelings can a parent feel than to know he’s responsible for passing on broken genes?
I was also exploring reasons for blackmail while developing the story. For German Jews, hiding out during the holocaust must have meant a deep betrayal of faith and country. I wondered if I could somehow make a hidden Jewish ancestry part of Gervas’s make up, but once I decided to blackmail the Friedemanns over a different reason, I no longer needed to work on that aspect of the condition, though I was fascinated to learn that Fanconi Anemia can occur more often in those with Jewish ancestry.
For Gervas, the secret to his daughter’s treatment lies under his nose, but comes at a terrible cost.
Fanconi Anemia is a rare genetic disorder which is inherited from two parents who carry the recessive, defective gene. The condition can affect many of the body’s systems and can lead to cancer like leukemia.
As probably expected of an anemic disease, FA generally leads to bone marrow failure. It is diagnosed in children who may be born with birth defects such as abnormalities in thumbs and toes, misshapen eyes and ears, or internal kidney and/or heart conditions. Life expectancy is significantly reduced. Women can have delayed menstruation or underdeveloped sex organs which can cause difficulty in pregnancy similarly, men are less developed and often less fertile. Parents may not know they carry FA genes or have the disease to pass it on.
Genetic testing can be done in utero or after a child is born if FA is suspected, even if the child is born without birth defects. In such cases, bone marrow failure, which leads to easy bruising externally and internally, and petechiae among other symptoms, usually occurs before the age of ten, Successful treatment includes bone marrow transplant.
Some of the sites I used for research include Fanconi.org, National Institutes of Health, and Clinical Trials.