Thursday, January 5, 2017

What's On My Nightstand

In browsing possible books I discovered this award-winning interesting-titled autobiography by a neurosurgeon who is dying of cancer.  Paul Kalanithi is given the death sentence at the age of 35 and dies a year later.  I haven't given anything away, you'll find this out in the dust jacket.  What Dr. Kalanithi writes in between the foreword by Abraham Verghese and the Epilogue by his wife, Lucy, you will be introduced to a brilliant physician, writer and philosopher.  

Simply put, this is one of the most heartbreaking, beautifully written and thought-provoking books I've read in a while.  

Paul with his daughter Cady.  

The Kalanithi Family, Lucy, Cady and Paul.

Imagine the searing pain of just graduating 10 years of residency, experiencing the new arrival of a daughter and knowing you only have a short time to live.  Imagine a neurosurgeon who has had to tell patients and families the dreaded news of impending death and then having that same situation thrust upon you.  

This isn't light stuff.  It is the stuff of life.  It helps that Paul wrote his thesis not on medical minutia but rather of the poet Walt Whitman.  And it shows.  Asking clinically critical questions and trying to answer in poetic, philosophical prose, the beauty will remain long after Paul's death.  The last page of Paul's portion of the book is worth the cost alone.

I can't recall too many books I read a couple years ago, but I will remember this one.  What a loss to the medical community. What a loss to his family.  What a loss to his wife and daughter.  What a loss to us all.  This one belongs on anyone's nightstand.  

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