- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First edition (January 24, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312352697
- ISBN-13: 978-0312352691
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 134 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years Paperback – January 24, 2006
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“Like the very best episode of ER, Collins' memoir races from one trauma to the next, keeping this reader spellbound all the way. Collins' life as a surgical resident is heartbreaking one minute and triumphant the next. You'll laugh and cry and cheer along with him as his epic journey to become a doctor races toward its gripping conclusion. I love this book and won't soon forget it.” ―Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Dry and Magical Thinking
“One of the best, funniest medical memoirs I have ever read. Hot Lights, Cold Steel is at once darkly humorous and truly compassionate. Not since House of God has there been such a ferociously funny look at the world of hospital medicine.” ―Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of Fatal and The Society
“I adore this book. It's so polished and hilarious. It brought back all the stomach-churning anxieties of my own residency so vividly that I felt exhausted reading it. Dr. Collins has my highest admiration. I give this book a 10+!” ―Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Surgeon and The Apprentice
About the Author
Michael Collins served as Chief Resident in Orthopedic Surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Currently he is an active partner in a busy surgical practice in Chicago where he lives with his wife Patti and their twelve children. Hot Lights, Cold Steel is his first book.
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Helping my wife study through the past few years did help me in reading this. There were terms here and there that I would have had to look up if it were not for that (Anencephaly stumped me, now I know).
If this memoir is to be believed, and there's no reason why it shouldn't, every nightmare story that you have heard about the four-year residency is absolutely true. It's astounding that these people manage to survive - the tortuous long stretches on their feet saving lives, sometimes reaching 60 to 70 hours is nothing less than miraculous. Treating patients day and night, constantly worrying that you'll screw up, taking peoples lives in your hands could send the most grounded individual around the bend - in some cases it does, but for the most part, these people get through to become qualified surgeons, as did Dr. Collins, but through a lot of blood sweat and tears.
Hot Lights, Cold Steel reads like a novel, as the characterization, structure of the plot and the pathos, the utter sadness of some of his cases, and the joy and exhilaration of his successes, had me just as enthralled as any top selling thriller. Dr. Collins has a gift for description as he illustrates the amputation of a limb, including a section of the patient's pelvis, in such detailed imagery, that it became difficult to read. He also has a great sense of humour, which I believe is so necessary to survive in this profession.
One of the more terrible of the Dr.'s experiences was the attempted resuscitation of a six year old boy who had been run over by a drunk. Collins and the ER staff did everything humanly possible to save the child, but his injuries were too severe. The undeserved death of innocence is hard to take, and it affected the attending staff in a big way. This was also terribly difficult to read. Then there was the young kindergarten teacher who just came in because of a slight pain in her hip, to discover her entire skeleton was riddled with cancer, unfortunately she died six months later. After reading about these cases one realizes that life is fleeting and fragile, and should never be taken for granted.
I have always had great respect for those in the medical profession, but this book has doubled that respect and opened my eyes to their tenacity, courage and skill. This is a great book and is highly recommended.
It doesn't matter if you aren't interested in medicine or if you don't intend on becoming a surgeon. Collins is not here for that. He does not fill his book with medical jargon or complex diagrams. He doesn't go into long descriptions as to how the body works. Collins does not focus on the minutia of his career, but rather, how it has impacted him and his life.
It is not simply a tale of a surgeon going through his residency. It's a memoir of a man's coming of age and his indomitable will. It's a testament towards human suffering, human imperfection, and Collins' journey that despite all of this, he must endure and prevail.
Collins' good natured humor does not mesh well with the rigors and sadness of his everyday losses. He tip-toes the wire of life and death with a crack whip wit and a challenged sense of compassion. The reader will laugh at the everyday absurdity of his life, feel uplifted by his victories and growing skill as a surgeon, and will feel their heart utterly break as Collins mourns the death of his patients. His pain is real, and it bleeds through the prose.
It is clear that Collins poured his soul and mind into writing this book, and it shows. This is not a tale of someone hoping to shine the light on the medical profession, or show what being a surgeon is like. Collins is past that. Instead, he writes a book that details his journey from a wide-eyed medical student into a hardened chief resident, and the effect it has had on his psyche.
You will laugh, you will cry, but ultimately, this book is unforgettable. It is touching, uplifting, and heart-breaking, and I will never forget reading it.