Douglas Farrago, MD
TREATING PATIENTS WITH AUTISM
I recently retired from being a family doctor. My own journey started in medical school and the year was 1990. By the time I retired from practicing medicine, I had seen more than 140,000 patients. Did I love every minute of it? Absolutely not! It’s a tough job and there can be some tough patients. My favorite ones, however, were always the ones with special needs. I had patients with cerebral palsy, severe birth defects, and many with Down’s Syndrome. The ones that seemed to gravitate to me the most were people with autism. I can’t tell you why but I liked them and they liked me. I had many patients with autism over the years, even one who was a savant. Before he could even read (he was about 3 years old), he would watch movies over and over again. He would sit down when done and perfectly write the credits of every movie on hundreds of white sheets of paper. It was amazing. His mother even brought them in to show me. It looked exactly like the credits as they scrolled down with the same fonts and centering as you would see on the screen. He was one of the hundreds of patients with autism that I cared for as a doctor and the character of NOKI is sort of an amalgam of all of them.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH BOXING
My brother, Matt Farrago, was a former professional boxer in the 80s and 90s. His final record was 25-2-1. I thought I wanted to be a professional boxer. I actually was an All-American collegiate boxer (I took 3rd) in 1986. After graduating from the University of Virginia, I traveled to Houston to turn pro. Then I realized that I wasn’t that good. I remember sparring with Sugar Ray Caples and trying to corner him. I threw a left hook and missed and all I saw were the three ropes. When I turned around he was waiting for me and blasted me with a right hand. I retired any thoughts of fighting after that. Soon thereafter I was hired by the Houston Boxing Association to work with the fighters with nutrition and strength training. I worked under the tutelage of Mackie Shilstone. I ended up working with many world champion boxers and saw the true ins and outs of the sport. There is such purity to the art of boxing but this is negated, in many ways, because of the bad things that go on in the sport. There are some bad people, bad contracts, bad gyms, and no one watching over it. This does even mention the brain damage boxers get. We are all up in arms about football players but no one seems to care about these boxers. Over the years I was involved with many big fights. My last one involved one of my best friends, Lou Savarese, when he fought Mike Tyson. That was a crazy night. In the picture below you can see where I had to jump into the ring (you are not supposed to do that as a cornerman).
I am the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers to take the pressure off their knees when they squat. You can see an example in the image below. The website has all the resources and studies showing the benefits of this product.
I also invented the Cryohelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. It has recently been added to the inventory of CVS stores around the country. There are more and more studies showing that cooling the head after a head injury aids in recovery. Here is one study done using the Cryohelmet.
(The boxer on the right is former heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder who uses the Cryohelmet).
My Writing History
I have written six books over the years, with NOKI being my latest. The Placebo Chronicles was published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, in 2005. I also wrote Diary of a Drug Rep as well as three books on direct primary care: The Official Guide to Starting Your Own Direct Primary Care Practice, The Direct Primary Care Doctor’s Daily Motivational Journal and Slowing the Churn in Direct Primary Care (While Also Keeping Your Sanity). These are all best sellers in this genre. I am one of the leading experts in the Direct Primary Care model and I lecture medical students, residents, and doctors on how to start their own DPC practice. I retired from clinical medicine in October, 2020.
From 2001 – 2011, I was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, I was featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times.
I still blog every day on my websites Authenticmedicine.com and DPCnews.com. I lecture nationally about the present crisis in our healthcare system and the effect it has on the doctor-patient relationship.
MY OFFICIAL CREDENTIALS
I received my Bachelors of Science from the University of Virginia in 1987, my Masters of Education degree in the area of Exercise Science from the University of Houston in 1990, and my Medical Degree from the University of Texas at Houston in 1994. My residency training occurred way up north at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine. In my final year, I was elected Chief Resident by my peers. I am still board-certified in the specialty of Family Practice. I practiced family medicine for twenty-three years, first in Auburn, Maine and then in Forest, Virginia. I founded Forest Direct Primary Care in 2014 and retired from the practice in 2020.
Why Write Noki?
It’s time to move past the idea that being autistic is a curse. Autism has many benefits and many people on the spectrum go on to do incredible things.
The story of Noki was stuck in my head for over ten years. It is a blend of my personal passions due to my experiences as a doctor and my involvement in the boxing world.
You will truly understand the story of NOKI once you finish it but I want to clarify a few things.
- I am not autistic. I can never be the voice for people with autism. Only they can speak for themselves.
- The fact that Noki has autism is very important to the story. I hope, however, I am not accused of hijacking this issue to make the book work. That was never my intention.
- Noki becomes somewhat of a hero to those with special needs in this story, which I think is pretty cool. I did not show Noki making a big deal of this because I do not think he, or most people with autism, would do that.
When you read Noki you won’t see many changes in him as a character. That was done on purpose. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give Noki depth. Far from it. I just wanted the other characters to have arcs and the need for growth. I did this because I felt it would be nice if a story showed that those with autism don’t need to be anything but themselves and maybe it is the rest of us who need to change.
Lastly, as Mr. Sinclair so eloquently stated in the quote above, I hope, after you read the book, that you do not feel that I treated Noki’s autism as a curse. He deals with things in his own way and sometimes that is very tough for him. I did give Noki the ability to do incredible things. Truth be told, only about one in ten people with autism have some savant skills and there is a large range of what these skills encompass. I really hope that people don’t use Noki as an example of every person with autism. That is not fair to them. Noki is Noki. And that is all he wanted to be.