A candid look at the life of a trauma surgeon who has served as a reserve officer with the US Special Operations Command, as well as the urban trenches of the United States.
After 20 years on the job, Cole explains why he considers himself privileged to work in such a demanding career. He writes that “trauma surgeons…thrive on taking patients who are dying in a dramatic fashion and exhaust their own energies to give their patients the chance to live.” His patients have ranged from the elite to the homeless, from soldiers to drug-pushers and from the youngest to the elderly, all of whom received his best efforts as a surgeon. Despite his commitment to giving his best to every patient, he admits that only after suffering the miserable experience of providing emergency front-line care under conditions of desert warfare in Iraq could he connect emotionally with the lives of “social derelicts, deviants and bums.” His training as a resident surgeon was grueling—continuously on-call, sleep-derived, taking meals on the run and even once spending 26 consecutive hours in the operating room treating an elderly diabetic with damaged arteries. A high point came when he assisted in brain surgery on a 4-year-old who had been shot while playing on the street. It looked like a hopeless situation, but a year later, smiling and alert, the boy walked into the hospital with his mother to thank the doctors. Cole provides a satisfying bird’s-eye view of operations in progress, revealing the difficult split-second, life-or-death decisions that surgeons must make.
An engrossing—if sometimes disturbingly graphic—story of the author's evolution from a newly minted MD to an expert trauma surgeon.