Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years Paperback – Jan 24 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Collins begins this personal chronicle with an account of a choice he had to make between amputating a 14-year-old boy's leg and saving the limb at a greater risk to the boy's life. (He amputated the leg.) This dilemma came at the conclusion of Collins's grueling four years of residency at the Mayo Clinic, culminating in his appointment as chief resident in orthopedic surgery. Now in practice in Illinois, he details, with admirable humor and insight, the early, virtually sleepless years when he learned not only to perfect his craft but to come to terms with the emotional impact of causing pain and losing patients. Collins brings to life the dramatic moments when he made his first, terrifying incision and hand-drilled a traction pin into a weeping six-year–old's leg. Collins and his wife, Patti, wanted a large family, but the economic strain of having three children in three years (they eventually had 12) forced him to moonlight every other weekend at rural hospitals. There are moving passages about his love for Patti and the bonds he developed with other residents, and empathetic evocations of those he treats. Collins describes powerfully how he came to understand that his calling was not just to develop as a skilled surgical technician, but to treat his patients humanely as individuals.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* If he didn't feel overwhelmed before the Mayo Clinic senior orthopedic surgery resident lobbed a beeper at him with the nonchalant order, "Cover for me," 29-year-old ex-cabdriver, ex-construction worker, and, at the time, brand-new resident Collins certainly did then. It was his first day on the job, and instantly he began fielding calls from staff nurses requesting orders for patients he hadn't laid eyes on. If it hadn't been for his innate sense of humor--brilliantly demonstrated in this memoir of his Mayo residency--and a sense of perspective derived from that experience, he might have failed. He didn't, and here he honors those who helped him along the way and those whom he helped. As a man who recognizes that he, too, makes his living with his hands, Collins anguishes over the options available to a carpenter who had severed four fingers. After assisting at a young cancer patient's leg amputation, only to learn later that she had died within months, anyway, he agonizes over what drew him to his profession in the first place and what could possibly keep him on course. "I wanted to be the guy who confronted the arbitrariness of life and strangled the unfairness out of it." Instead, while honing his craft, he learned from a Vietnam vet that the main thing patients deserve is compassion. If Collins' scalpel is as sharp as his pen, his patients are in capable hands, indeed. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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If this memoir is to be believed, and there's no reason why it shouldn't, every nightmare story that you have heard about the four-year residency is absolutely true. It's astounding that these people manage to survive - the tortuous long stretches on their feet saving lives, sometimes reaching 60 to 70 hours is nothing less than miraculous. Treating patients day and night, constantly worrying that you'll screw up, taking peoples lives in your hands could send the most grounded individual around the bend - in some cases it does, but for the most part, these people get through to become qualified surgeons, as did Dr. Collins, but through a lot of blood sweat and tears.
Hot Lights, Cold Steel reads like a novel, as the characterization, structure of the plot and the pathos, the utter sadness of some of his cases, and the joy and exhilaration of his successes, had me just as enthralled as any top selling thriller. Dr. Collins has a gift for description as he illustrates the amputation of a limb, including a section of the patient's pelvis, in such detailed imagery, that it became difficult to read. He also has a great sense of humour, which I believe is so necessary to survive in this profession.
One of the more terrible of the Dr.'s experiences was the attempted resuscitation of a six year old boy who had been run over by a drunk. Collins and the ER staff did everything humanly possible to save the child, but his injuries were too severe. The undeserved death of innocence is hard to take, and it affected the attending staff in a big way. This was also terribly difficult to read. Then there was the young kindergarten teacher who just came in because of a slight pain in her hip, to discover her entire skeleton was riddled with cancer, unfortunately she died six months later. After reading about these cases one realizes that life is fleeting and fragile, and should never be taken for granted.
I have always had great respect for those in the medical profession, but this book has doubled that respect and opened my eyes to their tenacity, courage and skill. This is a great book and is highly recommended.
It follows a new physician through his four year residency program. He explores the trials and tribulations of his residency while living on the edge of total poverty. All this with no sleep. It is far superior to Willian Nolan's "The Making of a Surgeon."
The real question is, when is Dr. Collins going to write his next book?
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