The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine

The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine

The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine

The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine


Reminiscent of Chekhov's stories, "The Blood of Strangers is a visceral portrayal of a physician's encounters with the highly charged world of an emergency room. In this collection of spare and elegant stories, Dr. Frank Huyler reveals a side of medicine where small moments--the intricacy of suturing a facial wound, the bath a patient receives from her husband and daughter--interweave with the lives and deaths of the desperately sick and injured.

The author presents an array of fascinating characters, both patients and doctors--a neurosurgeon who practices witchcraft, a trauma surgeon who unexpectedly commits suicide, a wounded murderer, a man chased across the New Mexico desert by a heat-seeking missile. At times surreal, at times lyrical, at times brutal and terrifying, "The Blood of Strangers is a literary work that emerges from one of the most dramatic specialties of modern medicine. This deeply affecting first book has been described by one early reader as "the best doctor collection I have seen since William Carlos Williams's "The Doctor Stories."


ONE WAS MIDDLE-AGED, BALDING, the other young, overweight, and both men screamed as they rolled in on the gurneys. We had no warning on the radio at all. The paramedics were urgent, moving quickly and breathing hard. Multiple gunshot wounds, they said, with unstable vital signs. They didn't have time to call it in; it was too close, they were too busy.

I took the young one. He lay soaked in sweat, with a bluered hole in his neck. “I can't move my feet, ” he yelled, over and over. “I can't move my feet. ”

The volume of his shouts was like a physical force in the small space. We hung blood immediately—deep red, the icy drops tumbling into him as he grew quiet, and his face settled into the mottled blue mask I'd seen so often in that room.

On the X ray clipped to the board, the bullet appeared magnified, white against the grays of his chest, just under his heart. As we ran to the operating room, the gurney humming like a shopping cart down the hall to the elevator, I heard the nurse on the phone behind me. “They're coming up right now, ” she said. “Get the room ready. ”

In the elevator, the slow minute of quiet, he looked up at me, and I felt his hand on mine. “Please, ” he said, like a small child beginning to cry, “I don't want to die. Don't let me die. ”

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