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Review: The Man Who Lived in an Eggcup

Once upon a time there were doctors who made house calls, answered every page and returned patient phone calls.

Once upon a time every wide-eyed young man or woman who entered medical school actually started out with the right goal: patient care.

Once upon a time, every young hopeful entered the world of the Intern and here is where our story begins as one young doctor named John Gamel takes the reader on a journey into the many rooms, patient thoughts, innermost feelings of interns, doctors and the real world of medicine told by someone who cares.

The challenges, the grueling schedules, the long shifts and the many patients that each intern, resident sees are just part of what Dr. Gamel shares with the reader. Real life stories, real patients and on the spot decisions that cost lives are recounted in this outstanding memoir titled: The Man Who Lived In An Egg Cup: A Memoir of Triumph and Self-Destruction.

In this unique and genuine memoir, Dr. John Gamel takes the reader on an inside tour of the medical profession. Using himself as the patient in some cases he relates true stories and first-hand experiences of many people whose illnesses were rare, complex and some incurable and how he and his fellow interns learned the true meaning of the word Doctor.

Each story is so well defined and told in such vivid language with descriptions so clearly defined that you feel as if you are in that patient’s room or operating room experiencing their pain, relief, and joys first hand. Every story is told so graphically filled with energy and excitement as if they are mini-mysteries told with the flare of a true mystery writer with that surprise twist or ending. As the author introduces each patient and their story for the reader he unfolds his own complex plot and envelops you into the intricate and hidden truths about what really goes through a patient’s mind and doctor’s they try to solve and resolve their illness.

Meet George H: George is persistent, smart and out to live life to the fullest- yet without his legs that are no longer able to function. Demanding they be removed and living in what the Dr.Gamel describes as an Eggcup this resourceful man learned how to navigate a wheelchair as well as any race car driver, speed down the halls, get around the hospital and manage to disappear without a trace and even convincing someone to give him a job at the hospital. Just what is an eggcup and how George managed all of this you need to read the first story in this book, as he is a true inspiration to everyone?

Next, we meet Vivian whose husband has become more of a caregiver than remaining as a loving partner. More concerned with tending to her injured arm and feeding her hypochondria, he loses out on the true meaning of being a husband and is angered with the doctor in charge of her case explains what he feels needs to be done. Now, what man in his right mind would turn down a night of love and fun with his wife for putting a pillow under her arm and tending to needs that she really did not require?

Writing reports on patients, patient charts, creating the perfect presentation as if from memory is just part of the world of the intern plus those long grueling hours of non-sleep and overtiredness. He and his fellow interns met many attending doctors, residents and patients that kept them on their toes, awake for long hours and definitely alert. But, not every story turns out right and not every decision made by every doctor correct. Told in the first person by the author as if he is speaking directly to you the reader, you hear his voice, understand his frustrations, his honest accounts of what really happens when doctors make snap or wrong decisions and one doctor named Jason M’s encounter with an enema that he would never forget.

In Quiet Departure, the author graphically describes many patients, mistakes made, rounds and how one Dr. named Peggotty realized the true fate a patient and the reality of the situation that set in for those present.

Not all patients understood that it is not where the hospital is located that matters it is the staff within the doors, halls and operating room that determines the quality of care you get. Some would take their loved ones out of Valley Medical Center because it was not considered high end or in the right economic area. Some would take their loved ones out because the doctor was not experienced or they feared having a medical student in charge even though no medical student could write orders or see a patient without the authority of a licensed doctor present or signing off on what they have prescribed or written. But, the funniest experience was when he was asked to instruct and speak with new mothers and explain the care of their newborns at home praying that the nurse in charge would bail him out. Ever take a test with a cheat sheet in front of you with information to help you get through the test. Read what happens to Dr. Gamel when he faces new mothers. The story is priceless and Mrs. K is the best.

Throughout the entire book, we hear the voices of many doctors, can visualize the patients in their rooms, their experiences, and the medical staff that tries to save their lives. But, through it all loud and clear comes the voice of Dr. Gamel, his thoughts, his feelings and the pride he takes in what he did. Along with Jason M. who made great strides in many areas and who many should emulate and model, let’s hope the medical profession takes a backward turn and brings back more doctors that care. All too often it’s about medical coverage, money, and lack of time to care for so many patients.

From the over 400 pound woman whose husband really adored her to the length the doctors went through to keep her alive, the Sleepers whose families agonized over what their final fate should be and the many doctors who cared for these sick and terminal patients are all front and center within this memoir. Many success stories and as in the title many decisions self-destructive and detrimental to the patient and the doctor’s career.

The story that was sad yet uplifting was that of Michael a ten-year-old boy with Reye Syndrome. In the chapter titled  The Sleepers, you will hear his story and many others and understand how one man would never give up, how miracles sometimes happen and there are doctors that care.

Reading about Maggie Smith who was so fragile and yet endured a life-threatening surgery brought more than tears to my eyes. The end of her story so sad yet so real and hitting home as many families decide to not allow doctors any heroic measures when the patient is too close to death. Dealing with doctors for over 10 years for my mom, I could never allow myself to sign a DNR no matter what. Maggie’s story was sad but yet the final outcome and what the family did understandably. The one story that brought tears to my eyes and hope that there are still many doctors that care out there is the story of the newborn child that had an unusual illness and how Dr. Gamel was able to place an IV in places where no one else could, monitor him closely and show that some doctors really care and never give up. When he fast-forwards to five years later you know that miracles happen.

Reading each memoir you learn of the struggles, fears, concerns and innermost frustrations of not only our author but others too. Some doctors that feel they should not be questioned others who will not stop until they find the answers needed to save the patient and then keep going to make sure they are the right ones. I wish that when my sister collapsed last year that the doctors that cared for her were the ones described in this book. Caring they were unfortunately not able to bring her back claiming her upper brain function was no longer there and they could do little for her.

As you read each memoir and hear the voices of the family members, nurses, doctors and our author you will understand that medicine is not an exact science, that doctors are human and are not God and that only through persistence, hard work, effort, and diligence will a patient have a chance to survive.

If you truly want to understand his passion, his compassion and what happens when one doctor reaches the age when coming close to his final chapter and yet still going strong and never give up read this outstanding memoir, hear his voice and read his final thoughts. He watched his patients grow old, faced down his own fears, credits his successes from what his patients taught him. This heartfelt, honest, true and down to earth account of one man’s life is a definite must-read. Thank you for asking me to read and review this book and thank you, Dr. Gamel, for caring.

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