In his new book, Hidden Valley Road, Robert Kolker reveals how a family was devastated by the debilitating disease—and became invaluable to scientific research

By Johnny Dodd
April 07, 2020 09:30 AM
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Lindsay Galvin Rauch was four years old the night she first began to realize something was terribly wrong with her older Donald.

She’d been asleep for hours at the family home in Colorado Springs when Donald—the oldest of Don and Mimi Galvin’s 12 children—began frantically pounding on his parents’ bedroom door.

“He was convinced somebody was outside, trying to hurt us,” recalls Lindsay in this week’s PEOPLE Magazine. “So he was yelling for everyone to get down because they were trying to shoot us.”

What Lindsay didn’t know at the time was that Donald was fighting a losing battle with schizophrenia. And in the years that followed this mysterious mental disorder would end up exacting a terrifying toll on the Galvins as one brother after another fell victim to it.

Credit: Doubleday

“We were this beautiful family, living the dream—athletic, intelligent, into nature, the symphony and opera,” says Lindsay, now 54. “One brother became ill, then the next and the next. It was like a snowball. And it was just tragic, so tragic.”

Yet, remarkably, the gut-wrenching odyssey of the Galvins—described by one researcher as “the most mentally-ill family” in the nation—is also one of triumph.

Because not only did this crippling mental illness fail to drive the family apart, but the Galvins, one of the first families studied by National Institute of Mental health, have helped scientists gain a clearer understanding of the disorder.

“By analyzing the family’s genetic makeup, researchers are on the cusp of making significant advances in treatment, prediction and even prevention,” says author Robert Kolker, who meticulously chronicles the Galvin’s story—with the help of the nine living family members—in the new book Hidden Valley Road.

For the full story about the Galvin family, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.

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Lindsay Galvin
| Credit: Doubleday

Nearly 3.2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia, believed to be caused by a combination of genetics, environment and brain chemistry, that can result in delusions, hallucinations, along with extremely disordered thinking and behavior.

“It’s like having somebody die over and over again,” says Lindsay, a corporate events planner living in Teluride, Colo.

“Because they’re not always ill. But when they are, it’s like a death over and over again . . . They (her six brothers) had dreams of having families of their own, of careers and of love, but all that was stolen from them.”