'Starfish’ is set in a small British town and tells the story of Adrian and his son Michael. After the death of his wife when Michael was small, Adrian brought up Michael (now in his 20s) alone. A somewhat protective father, Adrian is now happy to see Michael grown up and teaching Design and Technology at the local sixth form college. He is proud of his son.
‘After watching for a while, the woman said to the young man, “There must be thousands of starfish on this beach, what is the point in throwing them back in, you can’t possibly save enough to make a difference”. The young man smiled, picked up another starfish and chucked it back into the sea. “I made a difference to that one” he said.’
Shannon, one of Michael’s students, suffers from ‘social phobia’, otherwise known as extreme shyness. She finds it hard to come to college and take part alongside the other students, but she is a talented artist and, with Michael’s gentle help, she is working towards her A Level.
Saira moves back to the town to take up the post of GP, vacated by her father who has recently died. This is Saira’s first job and her father is a hard act to follow. He was very well respected by the townspeople and regarded highly in his work. She misses her Dad very much and has doubts about her own abilities.
Saira’s first patient is Shannon, who comes to the surgery to find out about a treatment for ‘social phobia’. Saira finds it hard to deal with Shannon’s shyness and ends up scaring her away. Later, she bumps into Adrian, out jogging. Adrian remembers Saira because she was in the same class as Michael at school. They reminisce about old times and talk about Michael, how well he’s doing, how proud Adrian is. Before long though, Michael has developed a mysterious and very serious illness, and Saira’s doctoring skills are pushed to the limit.
‘Starfish’ looks at the importance of clinical trials through the stories of Michael, Shannon, Adrian and Saira. Shannon gains confidence through visits to the virtual online world ‘Second Life’ recommended to her by Michael. She is able to re-visit Saira and together they explore the option of Shannon taking part in the testing of treatments for ‘social phobia’.
Meanwhile, Michael’s illness develops at an alarming rate. Desperate, Adrian finds out about an untrialled treatment on the Internet. But should he put his son through something that has never been properly tested?
Judith Johnson, Summer 2008