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Forncett St Peter doctor releases novel, Swimming in Circles, about the dangers of water pollution

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A retired doctor from Forncett St Peter has tackled the dangers of water pollution in her debut novel – and its links to the rising prevalence of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Jo Dixon is celebrating the release of Swimming in Circles – an ‘eco fiction’ novel that describes how the dumping of sewage and environmental pollution with heavy metals, such as mercury, could contribute to the condition, which affects the nervous system.

The mother-of-four drew on her medical background to write the book, which follows Joe, who works in the fisheries in Midwest America, and his son, Michael, a scientist researching the mysterious deaths of young salmon.

Mrs Dixon with a copy of her novel, Swimming in Circles. Picture by Mecha Morton.
Mrs Dixon with a copy of her novel, Swimming in Circles. Picture by Mecha Morton.

When his father develops Parkinson’s disease, Michael tries to help the only way he knows how, by resorting to the evidence in science journals.

He continues his research after moving to Norwich with his partner, Luke.

“The characters are fictional,” said Dr Dixon, who lives in Aslacton Road with her husband and children.

“However, the science, medical explanations and reports of pollution are real.”

Beyond her work as a doctor, the 53-year-old also drew on her life experiences to paint a vivid image of the American Midwest following the Great Flood of 1993, having visited her mother in Aimes, Iowa, around the same time.

“The devastation the floods caused was shocking,” said Dr Dixon. “Everywhere was covered in brown silt.

“Sadly, these events have become even more common over the last few decades.

“There are now regular reports of raw sewage pouring into our rivers and seas.”

Similarly, during her time working in hospitals, she witnessed many patients with Parkinson’s disease and similar conditions, presenting at different stages.

“This helped me when I was describing Joe’s illness in the novel,” she said.

“In the opening scene, he’s in the midst of an argument with some people whom only he can see.

“This is based on a patient I saw once who thought he was playing cards for money. He was later diagnosed with Parkinson’s dementia.”

Parkinson’s disease predominantly affects the brain, but is now understood to start in the gut. Dr Dixon trained in gastroenterology, and became fascinated by the gut-brain link.

Last year, she published a memoir, The Missing Link in Dementia, about her own illness, having developed memory problems and discovered that the underlying problem was in her gut, causing malabsorption of essential vitamins.

She has been commended on her research and the explanations of basic science, and some of the more complex concepts.

She explained: “I think the link I discovered between gut bacteria, vitamin malabsorption and the function of the brain may be important in other disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and even Covid-19.”

Swimming in Circles and The Missing Link in Dementia are published by Wrate’s Publishing and are available to buy from Amazon as a paperback or eBook.

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