Just Finished – “Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital”

In another life, I would work in the medical field. If we’re creating fantasy parallel lives for ourselves, mine includes an MD/PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. Even though I would be a doctor, my specialty would lie in the laboratory, not in patient care. Twelve Patients by Dr. Eric Manheimer, reinforced this decision for me.

Dr. Manheimer is the Medical Director at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. Bellevue, the nation’s oldest public hospital, treats patients from all levels of the socio-economic spectrum: Wall Street tycoons to undocumented immigrants (Manheimer discusses cases of each) and treats them all in the same way. Which is how health care should work, right?

Manheimer is both introspective and subtly political, using the cases of “twelve patients” to underscore the importance of the public health care system. He goes beyond the notes in electronic medical records and tells the stories of the patients in those notes – not just what specific condition brought them to Bellevue, but how they were literally and figuratively transported to New York and the life they now live.

Manheimer’s plea for humanity in healthcare is subtle, but somehow at the same time, obvious and “in-your-face.” The stories are raw and emotional. Manheimer shows us his patients at their very worst, yet somehow helps us to hope for their very best.

It’s this emotion that would keep the hypothetical doctor me in the lab and out of patient care. The emotion and mental drain must be exhausting, and Manheimer doesn’t sugarcoat the struggles he and the staff of Bellevue face under the immense pressure. This also helps to underscore the importance of public healthcare systems – the availability of dedicated and talented to professionals to people from all walks of life and socio-economic levels.

My only criticism – the good doctor does have a tendency to move backward in a forward in time in way that sometimes makes it hard to follow his quick-moving thoughts.

For anyone interested in healthcare and the medical field, Twelve Patients is a great, thought-provoking read.

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