A former journalist tells the life story of an incredible pediatric heart surgeon in this hybrid biography and report of life inside the operating room.
Oristano (A Sportscaster’s Guide to Watching Football, 2013, etc.), who started his career covering professional sports, began volunteering at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas in 1997. There, he met Dr. Kristine Guleserian while working in the surgery recovery room, and he decided to record the story of her career. He begins by breaking down a day in the life of “Dr. G,” his nickname for her, as he observes her at work. He does a fantastic job of bringing the atmosphere of the operating room to life and offers a behind-the-scenes look at a bustling hospital environment (“Doctors and nurses in scrubs and lab coats shuffle into the room, many with the ubiquitous cup of Starbucks in hand”). These moments allow readers to enter the hidden world of those who routinely save lives, and he describes places and professionals that some healthy people may never meet. After setting the scene, Oristano introduces some of the harrowing stories of Guleserian’s patients, all young children who’ve suffered due to debilitating heart conditions. He interviews their families about their experiences, and one mother sums up the attitude of many parents of sick children when she wonders how to thank the woman who “literally saved your child’s life.” Interspersed with these emotional stories is Guleserian’s own history, told in her own words. Oristano weaves these threads together to create a book that’s both a biography and an in-depth look at the lives of patients and families who spend most of their time in hospitals, and who put all their hopes and fears in the hands of others. Although the combination is sometimes a bit messy, it offers a comprehensive picture of Guleserian’s life’s work, and of the tremendous effect she’s had on people’s lives. Readers don’t have to be familiar with medical terminology to find her story powerful and engrossing.
An emotional journey that offers a glimpse into a complicated world.