“This book is not only brilliant, it is deeply moving, and as socially and politically important as anything I have read over the past ten years. The medical literature during the past century has had a few masters of the art of communicating the current state of the art and science of medicine to the public in language that is so clear and understandable that they need no special expertise to understand it — from Sir William Osler and Walter Cannon to Lewis Thomas and Sherwin Nuland. With this book Eric Manheimer joins their distinguished company — and then some.”
James Gilligan MD,
New York University
Bellevue’s former medical director offers unusual clarity, empathy, and insight in these stories from the bedside at the nation’s oldest hospital—and, Manheimer notes, perhaps its most famous public one. Yet Manheimer offers far more than remarkable medical dramas: he blends each patient’s personal experiences with their social implications. Juan, an addict with a long criminal record, shows indomitable strength in battling cancer in the hospital’s prison unit as the hospital presses for his compassionate release. For Manheimer, his case illustrates a broken prison system. For Tanisha, an emotionally damaged teen, one caring foster family gives her a last shot at happiness and demonstrates the problems of psych treatment for kids. Equally gripping tales include that of addict Arnie, a former Wall Street success story whose demons nearly destroyed his son, and whose slow slog to recovery highlights the nature of forgiveness. But perhaps the most moving tale of all is Manheimer’s own—as a cancer patient, he learns far more about despair and hope than most physicians can imagine. Manheimer offers a window onto a unique hospital and the wisdom of a healer who tends with equal skill to patients and the world.
- U.S.A. Today
Captivating samplings of one doctor’s tour of duty inside the country’s oldest and perhaps most illustrious public hospital.
As the “oldest hospital in the country” New York’s famous Bellevue Hospital stands strong in the ashes of centuries of illness, death and, indeed, survival. Manheimer started his residency there in 1997, and each of these 12 vignettes coalesces into a humanitarian and heartbreaking tapestry where modern medicine confronts the atrocities of life. The profiles begin with the strife of incarcerated Mexican mobster Juan Guerra, admitted to the prison health unit with a neck swollen with cancerous tumors, the same type of carcinoma the author was battling at the same time. Other chapters introduce patients like Tanisha, a Dominican-Haitian teenager who was abandoned at birth and had ricocheted for years through an overburdened foster-care system; a recovering drug addict; an undocumented factory worker with a failing heart caused by debilitating Chagas disease; an obese woman requiring a C-section; and a homeless schizophrenic. As harrowing as the stories of the patients is the chronicle of Manheimer’s own arduous battle with cancer. Sampling three decades of the doctor’s tenure as medical director, the book offers desperate glimpses into the unfortunate lives of the sick, the injured and the dying, yet the author never relinquishes his hold on hope, however fleeting. Manheimer’s unflinching reportage of his patients, the country’s fractured healthcare system, irresponsible food manufacturers and hospital politics is authoritatively written, though not recommended for the medically squeamish.
An exquisite—and often exquisitely depressing—patchwork of joy and pain.
Manheimer offers far more than remarkable medical dramas: he blends each patient’s personal experiences with their social implications…. he offers a window
onto a unique hospital and the wisdom of a healer who tends with equal skill to patients and the world.