Confronted by the drama of ordinary lives in crisis, medical intern Abucastor reflects on his final years of medical training in this collection of essays. By turns thrilling, sentimental, and reflective, these real-life vignettes of hospital life take readers straight to the heart of medicine.
Occupying the front lines of treatment, but frequently delegated the most menial tasks, medical interns have front row seats on the lives of their patients. Though their work is challenging, the experiences of these precious years will stay with them for a lifetime. For psychiatrist and writer Abucastor, they taught him the very heart of medicine: to meet every person in need with kindness.
Birth, disease, old age, and death are staples of hospital life, and each is brought into vivid focus under the humane and sensitive pen of Abucastor. There is the retired general, still possessed of a commanding presence, now reduced to battling that least dignified of foes, the feeding tube. There are the foreign caretakers shepherding the elderly through their final years of life; though trusted with the most tender and intimate aspects of care, they are unable to accompany their wards in their inner struggles with mortality. There is the young mother with her face pressed to the glass of the nursery, her delicate frame radiating an indomitable love, as if to tell the world, “For this child, I will do anything.”
In between the sentimental vignettes, the harried intern’s life can run the gamut from thrilling to downright terrifying. When transporting a precious donated retina, Abucastor feels more secret agent than doctor, charged with safely delivering a life-altering cargo. While waiting for his test results after accidentally pricking himself with an infected needle, he can’t help but wonder if the final countdown on his own life has begun.
An essayist and poet, Abucastor’s writing benefits from his expressive imagery and penetrating powers of observation, embedding readers within the milieu of the hospital, where the celebration of life and the tragedy of death are forever rubbing elbows, and the often menial – but rarely trivial – work of the intern is never done.