Reviewer Bani Sodermark. Bani has a Ph.D in mathematical physics and has been a teacher of physics and mathematics at the university level in both India and Sweden. For the last decade, her interests have been spirituality, healthy living and self-development. She has written a number of reviews on http://amazon.com. Bani is a mother to two children.
Author: Ismael Nuno
Chronicling the Life of a Cardiac Surgeon
“Since I was five years old and knew I wanted to be a heart surgeon, my life has taken a straight and narrow path to accomplishing just that goal.What I did not know was how having the responsibility of repairing people’s hearts would place me in a front row seat in the amphitheatre of life- of the human condition. I witnessed first hand the enduring nature of the human spirit....I write this book to detail the stories that crossed my path and to honor the memories of the patients and their families that so greatly touched my life.”
The book starts with a story. Having been invited to give a talk at a conference in Valencia, Spain, the author who has been a high profile cardiac surgeon (now retired), plans to take a vacation with his sisters, one of them being his co-passenger en route to Paris, where they would take a connecting flight. Suddenly the author’s sister suffered some sort of a cardiac arrest. The process of getting the appropriate help to her in time, resulted in a total change of plans, the author had to cancel both the speaking engagement and the vacation and return to a California hospital for his sister’s treatment.
The author mentions this incident as being symptomatic of the roller coaster nature of the life of a cardiac surgeon, where “in the blink of an eye, someone’s life has taken an unexpected turn”. This book is all about how the author reveals his human side, as he navigates countless similar situations as a cardiac surgeon and the wisdom and understanding that he gleaned from these experiences.
A good part of these experiences is about how to confront the spectre of death which is ever present in the background of cardiothoracic surgery. The author begins by mentioning the deaths in his own family and his reflections around them. He goes on to outline the broader role of a cardiac surgeon as an intermediary in the twilight zone between life and death. Aside from technical surgical skills, a cardiac surgeon has to meet the relatives of his patients and give them news, good or bad, of their loved ones. In particular, the author recollects how the emotional charge associated with heart malfunction is a catalyst for family reunions at the patient’s bedside after years of estrangement, either to help the latter to recover, or to bid him/her farewell. He also explores the role of prayer in saving lives even after failed surgery, dream visitations of friends and relatives who have just crossed over, and of course near-death experiences. There is also a chapter on bullfighting, one of Dr. Nunos passions, surgery being another.
Some of the anecdotes in this book are exceptionally moving. Dr. Ismael Nuno appears to epitomize that rare combination in a human being, a doctor with a heart, bereft of intellectual elitism.
In closing, Dr. Nuno, poses some interesting questions. “Sometimes, after witnessing the death of a patient... I feel that their spirit continues as energy to give us evidence that their life carries on? Is there an afterlife? Are spirits free to roam around? Is there something they wish to tell us?” His personal answer, as a fallout of his experiences, many of which have been recorded in this book, is in the affirmative. However, this is not a book describing the nitty-gritty of other-worldly experiences. This book aims at depicting, in toto, the human side of a well known cardiac surgeon, where the physicality of the experience is not compromised, even as other-worldly communication is given its place.
This is a feel good book that has been written with heartfelt warmth and unusual sensitivity. Don’t make the mistake of speed reading it, it’s best enjoyed in bite-sized pieces.