A cardiologist shares a wealth of experiences from his 50 years of practice.
Nathan doesn’t just treat people’s hearts; he also puts his heart into his work. In these 45 short anecdotes, he tells about his years as a physician in India, England and America. He eventually settled in Florida, and for the last few decades, he’s tended to the special needs of the elderly. In the first section, “The Art of Medicine,” readers get a glimpse into Nathan’s character when he quotes a few comforting lines from the Bhagavad-Gita to a sick patient, including “Don’t grieve for the living or the departed.” He often returns to the theme of treating patients with compassion, although he believes that patients’ distrust of doctors has increased over the years. Some of the prose is a bit mechanical and choppy (“Mr. Dugan, a sixty-five-year-old somewhat obese businessman, recently retired, and he moved to my hometown, Brooksville”), and it includes many undefined medical terms, such as hepatomegaly and amebiasis. However, Nathan’s authenticity and humanity shine through as he candidly tells of lessons he’s learned from his own clinical and personal experiences, including his own heart attack and kidney transplant. Although a few snippets lack drama, most offer a peek into a world that many readers are unfamiliar with; he shares his frustration at being sued, for example, and tells of how he must constantly balance the delicate relationships among the patient, the patient’s family and the insurance company. He also writes that he feels that his learning is never complete. He includes absorbing stories about a prominent surgeon friend who succumbed to Alzheimer’s; a 23-year-old AIDS patient who asked to be taken off her respirator; and a simple prank among friends that led to death. The book also discusses the differences between India’s and America’s medical practice; in India, Nathan says, doctors still make house calls, as many people avoid the hospital, believing it’s where people go to die. Overall, the author’s sincerity and humility give this varied collection tremendous appeal.
An often insightful memoir about the human side of medicine, from a physician who’s still willing to learn.