Saturday, February 18, 2017

Last Night in the O. R.

Last Night in the OR
A Transplant Surgeon's Odyssey
Bud Shaw, M.D.
A Plume Book
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-14-751533-9
Trade Paperback
$ 16.00
291 pages

How does someone become a transplant surgeon?
Bud Shaw became a physician because his father was a surgeon.  When his mother died of lung cancer, Bud became the son of a single-parent who had difficulty balancing raising three children with the demands of surgery.
Naturally, Bud graduated from college, then medical school.  Becoming a surgeon is challenging and demanding as well as humbling. 
1981, in Pittsburgh, a young doctor was introduced into the world of liver transplantation. 
Shaw's first experience was in the transplant world was in Pittsburgh during 1981.   Ironically,  the patient was a liver transplant surgeon from Texas who suffered from a congenital liver disease.  He had traveled to Pittsburgh to for the procedure by the most respected liver transplant surgeon of the time.  The donor's liver had just arrived from Virginia.
For Shaw, who had just graduated from the University of Utah as a surgery resident, he was an excited thirty-one-year-old thrilled with being allowed to train with this transplant team.  
For a prospective world-class surgeon, this is the opportunity of his life.
His first day was already a disaster.  He received a phone call while driving across the country.  Apparently, he was expected in the operating room last week.  So much for leaving messages with the head surgeon's secretary.
Two days later, Bud and his wife made it to Pittsburgh.  As they moved into a new home, the refrigerator broke along with his car being vandalized.  
Strangely, the nurse on the team wanted him to sign a petition stating that transplants were unethical.   With the six procedures in six months resulted in six deaths.
His first time on the team was disastrous with the surgeon completely humiliating him. 
"This was my initiation to the operating room of Dr. Thomas Starzl, and although I didn't know it at the time, these were but a few of the phrases I would learn to hate and mock and, in the distance of time and place, yearn to hear again."
How does Bud Shaw become a leading liver transplant surgeon in the country at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska?  How does his move to this midwestern metropolitan area turn this facility into one of the most respected hospitals in the country?
Last Night in the O.R. is a fascinating journey into a life that prioritizes medicine over a personal life.  The jury is out whether that is ethical or not, but I certainly want a physician that places my health above all else.
This novel is his life, his experiences, his impressions.  Sometimes I found myself in awe of the man and the next wondering what is wrong with him.    The book is well-written, at times jumping through his memories that are not always sequential, but it works.  The reflections are his personality and how he thinks. 
For a compelling memoir of an unusual person who has achieved phenomenal accomplishments in medicine, read Bud Shaw's Last Night in the O.R.

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