By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The fear of needles, shots, and anything hypodermic. Characterized by shakiness, nausea, and possible fainting when vaccinations or blood tests are performed. Sometimes referred to as White Coat Syndrome.
Suffered by at least 10 percent of the population – me and several million of my fellow humans. So why did I enjoy reading “Incidental Findings” by Danielle Ofri? I don’t know, but I sure did.
Upon finishing ten years of medical school and residency at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, Danielle Ofri decided that a break was just what the doctor ordered, so she signed up with a medical temp agency. She decided that she would work for one month wherever they sent her, travel until the money from that job was gone, then go back to work again, and so on. In this book, she writes about the places and patients who taught her to be a better doctor.
In southwestern Florida, Dr. Ofri cared for a man who had lost his will to live. He was in terrible pain, both physically and emotionally. Was he truly suicidal or was there a spark of interest in living? From him, Ofri learned that a patient is not a medical file, but a person with a history and – it is to hope – a future.
In a small New England town, Ofri worked at a clinic that did not condone or promote birth control. From an accidentally pregnant woman, Ofri remembers that her own life could have taken a very different path.
A diabetic man on his way to prison reminds Ofri that patients don’t always hear what is told to them until it’s too late. A young girl shows Ofri that the person she’s treating in the clinic isn’t the only one affected by the illness. An elderly man with a slight limp teaches Ofri to rely on her instincts when something is “not quite right.” An Argentinean woman with cancer teaches Ofri that she will remember some patients forever.
When I got this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. I loved Ofri’s first book, so I knew what awaited me and I wasn’t disappointed. Danielle Ofri writes with grace and gentle humor. She uses real medical terms, but she makes them easy to understand. She’s thoughtful and compassionate; the kind of physician everyone hopes to have. She’s willing to admit when she was wrong (or not quite right), which is something not a lot of doctors are brave enough to admit in public.
What I liked best about this book are its bookends – the first and last chapters. In them, Ofri tells about her own pregnancy and delivery, and the hard lessons she learned from being doctor-as-patient. Not a lot of doctors are brave enough to admit those things, either.
This was a completely enjoyable book for physicians and anyone who’s ever been sick. You’re probably not going to see “Incidental Findings” at the front of your bookstore with the bestsellers, but it’s definitely worth needling around to find it.