Direct Red by Gabriel Weston
I reached for this book for a number of reasons: one - it's a true medical story, two - it's written by a female surgeon, and three - she entered the field later in life after studying English at university and having no previous scientific background other than high-school biology.
That combination of factors seemed fascinating to me. Not only was Weston a female in a still predominantly male profession, but she'd also had a life before medicine. It would have been interesting also to hear more about her education leading up to her medical degree, why English? Why then medicine? Nonetheless it was a powerful book, and as I read I was so grateful for her talent as a writer because she could perfectly paint, with words, the setting, the situation, and the emotions she was dealing with.
I love the juxtaposition in this passage:
"As I was shaking out a new white coat from its flat-pack, to do my first on-call as a qualified doctor, on the other side of London, a perfect young bricklayer was accelerating his 750 cc motorbike to 60 mph on a seemingly empty city road. As the first hours of my on-call disappeared in little tasks and chats, he saw too late the van which pulled out from a side street and knocked him off his bike. While I wondered if the night had any excitement in store for me, Mark hit the ground, bounced several times onto all sorts of different bones, which broke, and then skated noisily across the gravely surface of the road. He covered a hundred meters of this surface in ten seconds. He then lay silently in a heap for five minutes while the ambulance called by the man in the van came to fetch him. Soon afterwards, he reached A&E [admitting and emergency room] where a trauma team was waiting." p17
And then later on Weston describes the beauty of surgery as being " . . . a craft which was repeatable, reliable and always dramatic" p52
"I had enjoyed watching the choreography that animated this space many times. The way the anaesthetic doors would open to deliver a bedded, tubed patient at the same time as the scrub nurse appeared with her trolley, like a hostess bringing out a science-fiction tea. And how the surgeon would enter center stage, arms held aloft, gown billowing like a gust-filled kite." p53
Her voice is captivating as she offers us a window into a world most of us only view from the sidelines during times of illness or trauma.