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The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520218635
ISBN-10: 0520218639
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Forget the niceties of plot development and the easy moralizing of the television shows. There's nothing glamorous about a hospital emergency room, that arena where every human flaw and frailty is exposed.

Frank Huyler, a physician and poet, offers a sharp view of life-and-death realities. The emergency room, he writes in these affecting vignettes, is a place where the dominant mood is numbness, where doctors and patients alike have seen too much bloodshed and death. As a defensive reaction, Huyler writes, some doctors become addicted to drugs and other pastimes, while others assume arrogant, cavalier, or aloof airs. This is eminently understandable, and Huyler recounts the growing distance in his relationship with patients as "the earlier intimacy I had felt ... began to recede into the task." A fine storyteller, Huyler doesn't shy away from tales in which he comes up short, just as he shakes his head in bemusement at the ways of administrators and chiefs. In one episode, for instance, he writes of treating a comatose patient with aggressive measures under one attending physician's orders, then doing almost nothing under another's instructions. The patient "was gone from the waking world, as nearly dead as a human being can be, lying at the edge but never quite crossing over"--but, amazingly, he survived both his injuries and the conflict between the two doctors.

Reminiscent of the surgeon-essayist Richard Seltzer's best work, Huyler's memoirs take readers behind the surgical screen. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This haunting, exquisitely observed collection of medical vignettes is much more than a compilation of odd cases from the emergency room. Huyler probes beneath the surface to reveal the marrow of his encounters with patients, such as when, after making a swift diagnosis and saving a life, he later looks in on the patient and pauses to sit "in the dark for a while, watching the red and blue lights of the monitor, savoring him, taking something for myself." Inviting the reader behind the drape, he recounts his personal journey from his first days as a medical student in gross anatomy lab through the harder, lonelier days of his internship and residency before he finally stepped into the coveted role of attending physician, vested with full authority. With a poet's economy, Huyler dismantles the myth of the privileged doctor's life, revealing the long hours and loneliness that are too often requisites for the job. His character studies of the often quirky, sometimes tragic colleagues and patients who pass through the ward are quite poignantAfrom the murderer whose beating heart Huyler holds in his hands during a life-saving surgical procedure to the head of the trauma service who "looked remarkably like Lee Harvey Oswald" and seduced scads of nurses until one very efficiently took her revenge. Though this slim collection ends just as one has settled into it, it marks Huyler as a writer to watch. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 163 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (September 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520218639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520218635
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Like so many I am addicted to television's ER, Trauma Vets and TLC's Emergency series. I picked up Mr. Huyler's book expecting blatant stories of gun shot victims, terminally ill children and scarred but valiant doctors. Instead I found stories that propelled me into the minds and souls of people who have chosen to witness human beings at our best and worst moments. I am very thankful to Mr. Huyler for giving me a glimpse into his life. I will undoubtedly continue to watch television dramas and documentaries of emergency medicine. Only, the next time I tune in I will look more closely for signs of the inevitable impact these experiences have on the psyches of emergency medicine professionals.
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Format: Hardcover
A beautifully written book that reveals a series of stories full of the drama, the pain, the humor and the insight to the dance of life in ER. Frank Huyler is an amazing writer who captivates the reader with characters in the best and worst of situations. I had to put the book down twice only to get my breath and start again. "Maggot man" will catch you off guard but you'll go back for more. These are not bloody drive by accident stories just waiting for you to gape. Rather you are romanced into the heartbeat and atmosphere of the ER. Each chapter keeps you intrigued and by the time you finish you'll be wanting more.
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Format: Hardcover
This collection of short essays elegantly and accurately portrays the life of a physician as he passes from medical school to the full responsibility of an attending physician. The triumphs and the failures, the joys and the sadness are all here, vividly described. As a practicing ER doc, and an educator, I will be recommending this collection to my residents and to my students. It ranks with the best of medical writing.
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Format: Hardcover
We are lucky that Frank Huyler has the gift of language so that he can express the inexpressible for those of us who work in medicine. The stories resonate authenticity but capture the feelings of our encounters with our patients rather than just what is visible or audible. I look forward to hearing more stories from Dr. Huyler. His youth is superseded by his wisdom and honesty
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By A Customer on September 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just want to write a quick recommendation of this slim but stunning work, which mixes poetry and drama, emotion and restraint, wisdom and elegance. I can't urge you enough to read this--whether or not you have ever seen the inside of a hospital.
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Format: Paperback
The mark of an excellent piece of writing is the invisibility of the prose. Picking up a book and stumbling on the words, the phrases, the writing itself, always gets in the way of a good story. A well-written story creates a situation for the reader, where, for the most part, that necessary 'suspension of disbelief' occurs, and you find yourself lost in the world of the tale. It ceases to be merely reading and becomes something else. In Frank Huyler's The Blood of Strangers, the world of the emergency room emerges from the doctor's point of view with such terrifying reality, that putting the book down, taking a break, is utterly necessary to maintain one's own perspective, one's own reality. Huyler doesn't write prose, but conjures windows into another world.
This book is a collection of scenes from the emergency room, revealing an aspect of the medicos that a lot of us would rather not know. First year medical students, for example, are assigned a cadaver to mutilate, take apart, to gain first hand knowledge of human anatomy. This the first of numerous hoops that the student of medicine must jump through in their many years of intense training. There is a tacit reason that anatomy is the first course off the rank - it is a test as to whether they have the capacity to objectify the body as mere object, divorce feeling and emotion from the human form itself. Many fail because they lack that 'scientific objectivity' and cannot stomach using a hack saw to open the skull of their subject. It is too close to home. The terrifying aspect of the Blood of Strangers is the objectivity portrayed by Dr. Huyler - he communicates a kind of cold bloodedness coupled with a profound insight and affinity with the human soul.
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Format: Paperback
I used to enjoy ER when the writing was taut and reality-based. As it plummets into soap-opera I no longer wish to waste my time on it. This book is the verbal equivalent of what ER and the reality based trauma television try to convey but most often miss. Added to that is the unique vision and poetic writing of its doctor-author. Rarely have I come across a book which is so poignant and says so much in such compact cameos. Huyler is an extremely talented man with an incredible ability to narrate the daily life cycle of the emergency room. It is a priviledge to read and participate in this world, that so few of us understand or get the chance to see. This world placed on the small screen is not as glamorous or easy as they tend to make it look. The exhaustion, the emotional roller-coaster, the strange people that Huyler and his like have to deal with on a daily basis is almost unfathonable. It is with more sympathy that I understand why so many doctors and students choose not to work in such conditions and burn out or burn up so quickly. This book should be required reading for Congress and others who need to pass legislation to protect both medical students and the public from archaic requirements which leave those who work in emergency care exhausted and prone to mistakes. Huyler is a great physician who for the most part could handle the harrowing schedule and requirements of emergency medicine, but too many do not have his abilities or strength, and it is well-known that errors of judgement abound in hospitals due to exhaustion. A truly magnificent book. Karen Sadler, Science education, University of Pittsburgh
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