It’s not exactly “Scrubs” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” but Scott Rivkees’s memoir of his years in training at Massachusetts General Hospital has a TV-style mix of drama, humor (often black) and medical terminology.
Rivkees, now chairman of pediatrics at the University of Florida’s medical school, packs his book with vivid anecdotes and characters.
A sampling: “Typhoid Paula,” a pediatric nurse, accidentally spreads staph infections to dozens of newborns with hardly a pause in her constant profanity. A Saudi Arabian princess is whisked in and out of surgery for a liver transplant. A teenager survives a 500-foot jump off a bridge.
Nurses needlessly page exhausted residents every 30 minutes as a form of discipline, and a doctor raises goats to generate antibodies for his research.
Rivkees’s style is so breezy it can seem callous. He describes a blunder by “Bozo the Cardiologist” that ends with the death of conjoined twins; it was “the talk of the hospital,” and the doctor was “taken to the woodshed and admonished.” Describing cases of meningitis before the development of vaccines, Rivkees decries the worst, vicious infections “that could steal a child’s bright future.”
Then he’s suddenly describing how his pet cockatiel Aristotle — a gift from the grateful parents of a patient — comes down with the avian form of the disease. “I took antibiotics from the ward . . . I adjusted his dose for his weight. He died the next day. I dropped him out our living room window.” Well, that seems to be that.