GIFTS OF SIGHT by Bruce Shields


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An ophthalmologist’s memoir derives life lessons from the treatment of the visually impaired.

As an eminent ophthalmologist who practiced at Duke and Yale, Shields performed incredibly delicate surgeries, often saving his patients’ sight from the ravages of glaucoma and other conditions. In his new book, he pulls off another notable feat—fashioning an eloquent, moving memoir that is as much about what his patients gave him as what he gave them. “[T]here is something else beyond the treatment of disease that I have learned in my practice,” he writes. What exactly that “something” is becomes apparent as Shields tells the remarkable stories of about two dozen visually impaired patients, each endowed with “a vision that transcends the physical realm.” Among them is Benjamin, a boy whose sight Shields is unable to save from childhood glaucoma but whose down-to-earth father makes the author realize the importance of doing his best every day. From a blind elderly patient who can still enjoy nature, Shields learns that “there is a light within us that no darkness can put out as long as we allow it to shine.” Perhaps most memorable is Martha, a 3-foot-tall woman who builds happiness around the parts of her body she’s proud of, most of all her eyes, even while coping with retinal detachments. “She always remained true to her philosophy for happy living,” Shields writes. The author also fills his memoir with insights into the medical system, countries he visits, including China and Lithuania, and celebrity patients, such as jazz legend Dave Brubeck and actor Rex Harrison. “I say, I cahn’t understand a word that chap is saying!” Harrison protests in “his finest Higgins-esque manner,” as a group of doctors discuss his eye condition. Shields’ keen eye for detail about everything from surgical procedures to the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains gives him a “renewed sense of wonder and gratitude for the gift of clear vision.”

A moving depiction of resilience and transcending medical struggles.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1449770969
Page count: 430pp
Publisher: Westbow Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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