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Hot Lights, Cold Steel – Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years

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  • Pages: 8
  • Word count: 1771
  • Category: Books

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Michael Collins wrote the book of Hot Lights, Cold Steel – Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years. It is a well-written and highly polished book about the orthopedic surgeon’s four-year residency at the most famous clinic. The author of the book is giving the impression that he poured his heart and soul into this text. This text is funny, sad at times and gruesome in parts but reading about the training surgeon makes one get a distinct feeling that people have to run through the depths of hell for them to get qualified. It is true that these men and women manage to survive tortuous and long stretches on their feet saving lives. They sometimes try reaching the 60 to 70 hours that to them is miraculous. These doctors and nurses treat patients day and night constantly worrying that they will screw up. They take people lives into their hands that might send the most grounded individual around the bend where in some cases it happens but they these people get through to become qualified surgeons as Dr. Collins does.

This book acts as humane and passionate reminder that doctors are human being too. It states that Collins had hectic time in his first years as a surgeon where he had hot lights, cold steel-life, death and sleepless nights.  During this time, he was learning to perfect his craft and come to terms with the emotional impact of causing pain and loosing patients. When he decided to become a surgeon, he was unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital. He was a student at a medical school that led him to surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world though he felt unprepared. In school, Collins never conducted any medical research and he wrote no scientific papers.

He was working on loading dock just to make the ends meet but he was energetic, intelligent, ambitious and perseverance. Collin’s euphoria of beginning his career as an orthopedic resident makes him feel that he is a counterfeit, an imposter who has infiltrated a society of a brilliant surgeon. His four-year surgical residency has made him rise from just an eager and clueless first-year resident to an accomplished chief resident in his final year. His family kept growing larger every year and yet he had a very low income. He and his wife made four children when they were at Mayo where the number increased later to eight. Their low income made them eat Mac and cheese because he could not afford expensive foods. He used to spend very long weekends while moonlighting at rural hospitals and he drove run down cars that are towed to the junk yard. According to the book, Collins liked the beer, sports and other mainly other stuff. He, his wife and the girls are always ready with a polished quip to match the occasion.

According to the author, a doctor’s life is hectic because every day he or she is confronted with decisions that might change people’s lives or even end them forever. As a surgeon, he was brought a boy whose leg was mangled by a tractor. He had to make a choice between risking the boy’s life to save his leg or amputate immediately. He performed the operation but the boy died and this was his first time to see someone dying. Collins explains that the boy’s pressure dropped, his heart quit and then he died. Dr. Collins and his staff did everything humanly to save the boys life but the injuries he had were to severe. It was hard for him and the entire staff to take the undeserved death of an innocent boy. There was also a woman who was diagnosed with bone cancer that injured her hips. This woman was a young kindergarten teacher who died six months later after the operation. He performed the surgery where the woman went through a very painful operation though she had few months to live. Like a jolt to the system, Collins is faced with reality of suffering and death as he tried his best to reconcile his idealism and aspiration to heal with the recognition of his own limitations and imperfections. He always had decisions to make between life and death but even if he did everything right he would still lose patients.

In this book, Dr. Collins is seen to have a unique voice in medical writing especially when he recounts his years with self-depreciating and endearing honesty. The book seems to be interesting particularly when he struggled with money woes and drove a series of terrifically cars. He was struggled with his emotions over the patients who touched him with their tragic circumstances, gasped in horror at some surgical details. In this book, Collins is trying to extract a fishhook from a guy’s nose and he asks a nurse to hand him a pediatric speculum. The guy resisted by saying that those speculum were not to go up his nose. Dr. Collins tried his best to reason with the guy and then he asks the nurse to hand in the fishhook extracting the nostril dilator while winking at her to get her to understand. The guy then got disgusted when the fishhook is finally extracted and he realizes what that nostril dilator is usually used for.

In his first time in hospital, he used to stay in the background and keep his mouth shut hoping that his superiors will overlook his ignorance. When he reviews a chart with the notation of patient is TTWB, he first wonders what that acronym meant. He was wondering if it could be three times without bleeding or it might be terribly thirsty without beer. He was predicting that he would be drummed out of the residency program for practicing medicine without a brain.

Collins explores the grueling nature of the surgeon’s training where he experienced the sleepless nights; snatched meals, being absent for long from his loved ones, and fear of hurting his patients. Due to his low income, he sued to drive a series of broken down Junkers and he had to moonlight to pay bills due to the growing family. To compensate on all this he used to exhilarate to help a patient regain his or her health. The time he performed an operation for the first time he was very excited although it terrified him to know that if he slips he will cripple someone or even kill. However, as the time goes on he gradually had to accept that everyone makes mistakes and terrible things do happen.

The author makes the book an interesting book to read because it is full of humor even though it is a medical memoir. Even though the book focuses on the patients, he treated and did learn some lessons along the way. Some parts of the book made it very funny especially the part Collins ever-expanding family. It is also entertaining where he was revolved by woes around him such as the junk cars and the kind of food he was taking. Although this book is a phenomenal book, it sounds like a novel.

This is because it can make someone laugh and become devastatingly sad at some parts. The author is a good writer because he makes someone to be drawn to the story. He shows how young doctors at their training makes the transition from the neophyte bewildered by the course nature of orthopedic surgery to be a seasoned doctor who is capable of handling anything that comes in.  He has made people learn how doctors are tutored in their art, about the pressures they face and the incredible strain of the decisions they make. This book has made people learn how doctors figure out to distance themselves from the trauma and disease they see everyday. They learn how to care and give but not to get close to the danger of burning out. It also reflects a person concerned with the issues of medicine and capable of exploring them cogently particularly when the author refers to himself as not quite up to par.

In this book, Collins and his wife who is ever pregnant have 12 kids. In the community, he was living in, population size and growth affects the society. His 12 ids has made him plant his feet in the idea that he will do what is in his best interests and ignores the good of society as a whole. Dr. Collins is trying to be modest in his descriptions of how he felt incapable during his residency. His high intelligence is seen to come through in his actions and his sincere feelings for his profession and people. He respected the Mayo clinic and the surrounding communities. Although the book is a very interesting book to read, it is also disappointing. The author was not expected to show failures everywhere for example, the 40 week pregnant women when the mother dies with his child after a lot of effort. This is where everyone was expecting miracles to happen. In addition, in the case of a small boy whom did a drunkard hit and he did not survive. In this case, the doctor was expected to perform miracles and help the boy survive. There are a number of miracles that happen in medical science but in this book, there was nowhere the doctors performed the miracles.

In conclusion, the book of hot nights, cold steel describes the life of a doctor. The orthopedic surgeon Michael j. Collins writes this book that is a fast-paced reminiscence of his four-year as a resident at Mayo clinic. The author connects a reader to many of his important cases where the reader experiences the achievement, thrill and sorrow that accompany his orthopedic cases. In this book, Collins discusses his medical career where he describes many orthopedic surgeries in detail. He also describes the emotions that accompany each victory and each defeat. The theme of the story is that humans make mistakes, nobody is perfect, and people learn to forgive. Collins tells of his poverty, calculating his low salary, describing the Junker cars, and their near empty account. He explains where he was forced to moonlight to feed his growing family. This book is very interesting because it is full of humor.

Work Cited

Collins, Michael. Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First

Years. Boston: St. Martin’s, 2005.

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