From the chief of trauma at Tucson’s University Medical Center, where Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was taken after the mass shooting in 2011, comes a memoir filled with explicit details about repairing horrific damage to human bodies.
Rhee, who is also a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona, is aided by veteran journalist Dillow in recounting a life rich in dramatic moments. Born in South Korea and raised partly in Uganda and then in the United States, Rhee, who received his medical education at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and consequently served in the U.S. Navy, discovered his bent for surgery as a resident. He loved it, and he had “good hands.” What his memoir shows is that he also had stamina, drive, ingenuity, and the ability to focus and to lead. Having been a trauma surgeon in the “urban battlefields” of Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles and in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, Rhee has seen sights most people never will—or would ever want to. But this is not just a series of horror stories. The author wants readers to understand the importance of trauma centers—trauma is the major cause of death of all Americans under the age of 45—the training of trauma surgeons, and what they do and do not do. Rhee opens and closes the book with the story of Giffords, but what he makes clear is that what happened in Tucson was not unusual or remarkable. Every year, some 180,000 Americans die of traumatic injuries, and the ones who end up under the care of a skilled trauma team stand the best chances of surviving.
Not for the squeamish, the book provides a fascinating glimpse into a world of rapid life-or-death decisions and actions.