Tornado of Life
A Doctor's Journey through Constraints and Creativity in the ER
by Jay Baruch
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Pub Date 30 Aug 2022 | Archive Date Not set
MIT Press, The MIT Press
To be an emergency room doctor is to be a professional listener to stories. Each patient presents a story; finding the heart of that story is the doctor’s most critical task. More technology, more tests, and more data won’t work if doctors get the story wrong. Empathy, creativity, and imagination are the cornerstones of clinical care. In Tornado of Life, ER physician Jay Baruch offers a series of short, powerful, and affecting essays that capture the stories of ER patients in all their complexity and messiness.
Patients come to the ER with lives troubled by scales of misfortune that have little to do with disease or injury. ER doctors must be problem-finders before they are problem-solvers. Cheryl, for example, whose story is a chaos narrative of “and this happened, and then that happened, and then, and then and then and then,” tells Baruch she is "stuck in a tornado of life.” What will help her, and and what will help Mr. K., who seems like a textbook case of post-combat PTSD but turns out not to be? Baruch describes, among other things, the emergency of loneliness (invoking Chekhov, another doctor-writer); his own (frightening) experience as a patient; the patient who demanded a hug; and emergency medicine during COVID-19. These stories often end without closure or solutions. The patients are discharged into the world. But if they’re lucky, the doctor has listened to their stories as well as treated them.
"Through stories that are often tender, sometimes chaotic, and always revealing, Jay Baruch beautifully conveys the messy art of doctoring. Read Tornado of Life to understand the emergency room in all its glory—warts and all."
—Sandeep Jauhar, author of Intern: A Doctor's Initiation
"A book that, with huge empathy and compassion, builds a bridge between doctor and patient, writer and reader. Engaging and thoughtful."— Sinéad Gleeson, author of Constellations
"Among the vast literature of doctors writing about their profession, Dr. Jay Baruch is a unique talent, a spellbinding storyteller and an expert and experienced diagnostician. With literary references and poetic flare, Tornado of Life reveals the whirlwind of emotions gusting through emergency rooms. Rarely does a physician admit his own vulnerabilities and uncertainties in a way that illuminates the true art of his healing."
—Randi Hutter Epstein, Writer in Residence Yale School of Medicine, and author of Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything
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