Monday, February 25, 2008

A Fortunate Man

Recently, a senior practitioner referred me to the book A Fortunate Man: the story of a country doctor, calling it the best description he had ever read of medicine "the way it used to be."

Filled with poignant vignettes and instructive tales, and illustrated with wonderful photographs of the English countryside, the book is a compelling (and comparatively quick) read. Consider the opening scene:
One of them shouted a warning, but it was too late. The leaves brushed him down almost delicately. The small branches encaged him. And then the tree and the whole hill crushed him together.

A man breathlessly said that a woodman was trapped beneath a tree. The doctor asked the dispenser to find out exactly where: then suddenly picked up his own phone, interrupted her and spoke himself. He must know exactly where. Which was the nearest gate in the nearest field? Whose field? He would need a stretcher. His own stretcher had been left in hospital the day before. He told the dispenser to phone immediately for an ambulance and tell it to wait by the bridge which was the nearest point on the road. At home in the garage there was an old door off its hinges. Blood plasma from the dispensary, door from the garage. As he drove through the lanes he kept his thumb on the horn the whole time, partly to warn oncoming traffic, partly so that the man under the tree might hear it and know that the doctor was coming.

... Within seconds of being beside the man he injected morphine. The three onlookers were relieved by the doctor's presence. But now his very sureness made it seem to them that he was part of the accident: almost its accomplice. ...
The OHSU Library's copy of this memoir was donated by faculty member Evelyn Oginksy, PhD, another fan of the book. You can read a review by yet another practitioner, Gene Feder, who calls it "the most important book about general practice ever written," free online here.

No comments: