Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years
When Michael Collins decides to become a surgeon, he is totally unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital. A natural overachiever, Collins' success, in college and medical school led to a surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world, the famed Mayo Clinic. But compared to his fellow residents Collins feels inadequate and unprepared. All too soon, the euphoria of beginning his career as an orthopedic resident gives way to the feeling he is a counterfeit, an imposter who has infiltrated a society of brilliant surgeons.
This story of Collins' four-year surgical residency traces his rise from an eager but clueless first-year resident to accomplished Chief Resident in his final year. With unparalleled humor, he recounts the disparity between people's perceptions of a doctor's glamorous life and the real thing: a succession of run down cars that are towed to the junk yard, long weekends moonlighting at rural hospitals, a family that grows larger every year, and a laughable income.
Collins' good nature helps him over some of the rough spots but cannot spare him the harsh reality of a doctor's life. Every day he is confronted with decisions that will change people's lives-or end them-forever. A young boy's leg is mangled by a tractor: risk the boy's life to save his leg, or amputate immediately? A woman diagnosed with bone cancer injures her hip: go through a painful hip operation even though she has only months to live? Like a jolt to the system, he is faced with the reality of suffering and death as he struggles to reconcile his idealism and aspiration to heal with the recognition of his own limitations and imperfections.
Unflinching and deeply engaging, Hot Lights, Cold Steel is a humane and passionate reminder that doctors are people too. This is a gripping memoir, at times devastating, others triumphant, but always compulsively readable.
residents stood silent, some looking at the ground, some staring at the gaping wound in front of us. No one moved. No one spoke. They all waited. Contents Year One Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Year Two Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter
Dr. Harding, or Big John, as the residents called him, took very little notice of me the next morning. After a perfunctory handshake, he directed his attention to the senior resident, Art Hestry. Art led us up to the ortho floor to make rounds on our patients. At Mayo, rounds are made twice a day. The attending surgeon accompanies his residents on rounds every morning except Sunday. The residents make rounds by themselves every afternoon plus Sunday morning. As we stood outside the first
felt brain dead with the plug pulled. I felt so ignorant that had anyone called on me even my questioner would have been embarrassed. The entire department would shudder if they discovered this moron was one of them. At one point, Jack Manning, who was sitting behind me, leaned forward and asked how many UTOs I had scrubbed on. I pretended not to hear him. He might as well have asked how many UFOs I had flown on. At least I knew what a UFO was. I don’t think it is possible for a person to
“Mom?” Patti opened her left eye ten percent. “Huh?” “Something happened to Mary Kate.” The eye opened another ten percent. “What happened to Mary Kate?” “She got shrunked.” Patti shifted a little under the covers and let out a sigh. “What do you mean, ‘she got shrunked’?” “She’s in her car seat and she got shrunked. And she doesn’t smell so good.” Oh, Jesus, I thought as I sprang out of bed. I’m screwed now. “Never mind, Eileen,” I said as I yanked on a pair of sweatpants. “Daddy will
with them every Christmas when I was home. They were the same old guys. They partied and laughed. They shot pool at O’Dea’s, went to Sox games, played sixteen-inch softball, and closed Callahan’s on Saturday night. Yes, they, too, were getting married, finding jobs, starting families; and yes, they, too, put in some long hours. But at least their lives had some balance. At least they didn’t have to worry that every mistake they made would kill or cripple someone. I remembered all the times, so