Exhilarating take on the daily life of a unique brand of doctor.

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MOUNTAIN RESCUE DOCTOR

WILDERNESS MEDICINE IN THE EXTREMES OF NATURE

Four seasons in the life of a seemingly superhuman emergency wilderness physician.

A dedicated member of Crag Rats, a nonprofit search-and-rescue club working in tandem with the local Oregon sheriff’s department, Van Tilburg vigorously describes the difficult, life-saving protocol followed by him and his crew while at high angles, precariously perched atop sharp, rocky cliffs: the rush to reach a trapped climber within the patient’s “golden hour” (the first critical hour after severe bodily trauma); attempting a tracheal intubation while a closely hovering medical-rescue helicopter whips up dirt and debris; rescuing two dogs from the rock ledges of an icy stream; reviving a mountain biker who slipped off a cliff. Heavily influenced by his father, a hardworking orthodontist, Van Tilburg’s fascination with medicine and penchant for extreme wilderness sports combined to become his livelihood. Even on his birthday, the author’s focus remained fixated on saving the life of a lost climber on Mount Hood. His adrenaline-fueled narrative begins with events in spring, where melting ice and snow wreaks havoc; summer proves back-breaking for a cliff jumper who jackknifed into a natural “plunge pool”; fall is plagued by heat-exhaustion and rattlesnakes; winter’s deceptively downy snow cover and five-foot tree wells can create an icy coffin. The author finds room between his heroics to discuss the escalating costs of rescues, the regulations governing state forestlands, outdoor liability laws and the hefty price tag exacted on those who cry wolf. Van Tilburg’s dogged spadework in translating to the page the intricate essentials of his unique trade makes each breathtaking rescue literally come to life. Those who choose to brave the Oregon wilderness can do so fearlessly—they are undoubtedly in good hands.

Exhilarating take on the daily life of a unique brand of doctor.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-35887-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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