I get the feeling that Paul Austin's book Something for the Pain: One Doctor's Account of Life and Death in the ER is actually a pretty good book. I won't be able to tell for sure, though, because I'm not going to be able to read it.
Ever since I was in the hospital last year (and that was for a scheduled surgery; not an emergency room situation) I find that anything on medical subjects has been ruined for me. I can't watch Scrubs on TV any more; commercials for ER cause nearly instantaneous nausea; just the thought of typing "webmd.com" into the Internet makes my hands start shaking. Likewise, I can no longer read books on medical subjects. This is a shame, because I used to like books like Atul Gawande's Complications Pauline Chen's Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality, and Richard Selzer's Down from Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age. I have read all of Robin Cook's medical thrillers and loved them; I was never really a squeamish reader. But now? All I have to read is Austin's intro:
"Thirty minutes later, the CT technician wheeled Ms. Lowery back to her cubicle, and then walked over to the nursing station. The technician sat down next to me, and pulled her chair close. 'She's got a mass this big,' she whispered, forming a circle with her thumb and middle finger. 'It's the size of a golf ball. The radiologist's going to call you in a minute with the formal report, but the mass is pretty obvious.'
The radiologist called. I spoke with Dr. Davis, the neurosurgeon on call. He asked a few questions, and said he'd be right in. I was glad I'd be turning Ms. Lowery's care over to him. Some of the on-call doctors try to dodge admissions. They look for reasons that I should send the patient home or to another hospital--anything to keep from having to come in and deal with the admission...
I sat in the dictation booth, not looking forward to telling Ms. Lowery she had a brain tumor. But the sooner I talked with her, the sooner I could go home." (pp. 19-20.)
And...we're done here. I did read a little bit more; it's a memoir of how Austin became a doctor and how his work in the emergency room has affected him--and it is actually very good stuff. But I just can't do it. The frailty of the human body, the knowledge that any of us can go from having a headache to having a brain mass overnight, is something that I don't want to read about. Maybe someday I'll come back for it. But most likely not.