The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine
Frank Huyler, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1999, 154 pages, £12.50 hc.
- General Practitioner, Bleanavon, South Wales
“I did my best, matching up the creases of his skin, easing the bright half-moon of the needle in and out, daubing away the dark blood that rose in little balls from the needle point, tying my knots like a fly fisherman. The thermostat in the room was turned up all the way, but he was cold—I could feel it through my gloves. After a while his face began to lose distinction to me. The wound stood out, became an entity unto itself. The earlier intimacy I had felt—bending over him as he lay there, my breath all around him—began to recede into the task.”(page 31)
Emergency medicine must have a good theatrical agent. It is hard to turn on the TV without seeing a slice of blood-soaked action from Casualty or life-and-death decisions from ER. Most viewers know how to boss around a resuscitation team while manually reducing a fractured femur and counselling the survivors. Thus emergency medicine has become a ratings-grabbing adrenaline-driven cliché. Frank Huyler's excellent book of stories is not more of the same. His cool, precise prose cuts through to the core of medicine—the patients', and the doctors', emotional response to their …