Good Bedtime Reads: July 2022

OXYGEN by Carol Cassella

As we move from the short days of winter to the longer and warmer days of summer, it also seems that time has expanded and this may be the perfect time to check out some good fiction. The book is written by a physician and the plot is something to which we can all relate. The story is set in Seattle and follows the emotional roller-coaster of an anesthesiologist who loses a young ‘special needs’ patient to an intraoperative catastrophe. The author narrates in great detail the legal and emotional issues associated with the death of a patient. Dr Marie Heaton, the protagonist, who is at the top of her game as an anesthesiologist, a brilliant and caring physician, is forced to take a look at her own insecurities as a physician. Something goes terribly wrong during a routine pediatric case and forces her to re-evaluate her life, her truths, her friends, family and her world. The story gives the reader an understanding of the conflict she feels between empathizing with the mother of the patient while at the same time coming to terms with what this incident means to her career as a physician. 

The book highlights the fragility of the world we live in, our lives as we know it and the professional relations we build. While on a leave of absence after the incident she is also forced to confront her personal relation with her father, which was largely ignored due to the demands of her profession on her time. It highlights the consequences of choices we make in our busy lives. I also think it is a great book for the beginning anesthesiologist as it emphasizes why we as a profession don’t take anything for granted and how a single wrong move can mean the difference between life and death for our patients. Without giving away the finish, I can promise that the tight narrative will keep you engrossed in the story until the compelling twist at the end!

Viji Kurup MD
Professor, Vice Chair for Medical Education
Yale University School of Medicine
New Haven, CT

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