Monday, September 10, 2012

Trauma: My Life as an Emergency Surgeon

by James Cole

The author trained to be a surgeon in the Navy and worked with Special Operations and attached to a SEAL team, as well as working as a trauma surgeon in El Paso.  He describes his medical training, which took place in the days when interns were on call for mind-numbingly long hours, for days on end, or saw patients for an entire shift without a food or restroom breaks.  He discusses the details of operations to address gun shots, stabbings, motorcycle wrecks, attempted suicide by crossbow, and brutal beatings.  He also relates the grueling conditions under which he served as a surgeon in Iraq after 9/11.  Through it all, Cole muses on the human capacity for evil and for recovery; he also expounds on how the military and medicine have blessed him with the opportunities to do good, an expanded world view, and a sense of empathy.

It’s an interesting book to the layman; Cole does an admirable job of explaining the steps of various surgeries, though he can’t help but deluge the reader with medical jargon.  The book could have used a surer hand at the editorial wheel: Cole is prone to overblown phrases such as “sanguineous fluid” for “blood,” uses “so” as “very,” makes minor mistakes such as saying “no more painful than” when he means “no less painful than,” and litters commas without much thought as to their relations to clauses.   Absentee editorship aside, this is a very interesting book, a look into two worlds – that of intense life-saving surgery and that of the military – that the layman rarely sees so up close and personal.  Cole comes across as proud of his extensive and admirable accomplishments, as he should be, but his authorial voice is reined in, expansive, and empathetic as he provides candid insight into these worlds.  

four stars

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