I am a big lover of medical memoirs and stories from doctors and other health care workers. A few weeks ago, I was browsing an eBook store I don’t normally go to, because Kobo has become harder to search and browse. I discovered Cook County ICU by Cory Franklin in the medical biographies and memoirs section. Because that eBook store doesn’t accept PayPal, I bought the book at Kobo anyway. I knew I wouldn’t be able to review it till today, because of the #Write31Days series, and I really had to keep myself from speeding through it. Of course, if I’d finished the book earlier, I could’ve scheduled my review, but in a way I was trying to keep myself from finishing the book too soon and getting bored afterwards. I just finished the book tonight.
An inside look at one of the nation’s most famous public hospitals, Cook County, as seen through the eyes of its longtime Director of Intensive Care, Dr. Cory Franklin.
Filled with stories of strange medical cases and unforgettable patients culled from a thirty-year career in medicine, Cook County ICU offers readers a peek into the inner workings of a hospital. Author Dr. Cory Franklin, who headed the hospital’s intensive care unit from the 1970s through the 1990s, shares his most unique and bizarre experiences, including the deadly Chicago heat wave of 1995, treating some of the first AIDS patients in the country before
the disease was diagnosed, the nurse with rare Munchausen syndrome, the first surviving ricin victim, and the famous professor whose Parkinson’s disease hid the effects of the wrong medication. Surprising, darkly humorous, heartwarming, and sometimes tragic, these stories provide a big-picture look at how the practice of medicine has changed over the years, making it an enjoyable read for patients, doctors, and anyone with an interest in medicine.
Like the synopsis says, the stories in the book are mostly fascinating. I loved learning about the first surviving ricin poisoning victim and the suicidal biochemist. These obviously have got to be the first stories I mention, because I’m fascinated with (and deathly afraid of) poison. I grinned at the duke of Spain being mistaken for an alcoholic and the resident calling for a stat (as soon as possible) dermatology consult because “the rash might be gone tomorrow”. I almost cried with pity for the medical student asking a “stupid” question in a conference with some of the area’s top doctors (which turned out to be a really smart question later on). Most times, I felt eager to find out how each story unfolded. Even if the title explained some things already, as in the chapter on the disease that turned out to be AIDS, I found there were fascinating turns in the stories.
Dr. Franklin seems to intend his book to be a testament to the old-fashioned doctor-patient relationship. He ends the book by recounting some recent changes in the practice of medicine, like the change from covenant to contract in the doctor-patient relatiosnhip and the increased part money plays. He sounds a bit bitter at this point, because he considers the changes mostly negative but says we cannot go back. I have to mostly agree with him here, even though I am mostly a 21st-century patient so don’t know the era in which Dr. Franklin practised. Some things have improved. Like, when AIDS wasn’t known yet, doctors and nurses didn’t wear gloves when drawing blood, and Dr. Franklin is terribly lucky that none of his team treating the early patients were infected. In this sense, protocols help. That being said, things can go too far, and they probably have.
Despite HIPAA and similar laws, I know even today there are practitioners of “romantic medicine”, as 20th-century neurologist A.R. Lurija originally called it and as continued in the English language by Oliver Sacks. What I mean is, there are still doctors who will listen to their patients’ stories rather than just their immediate health concerns. That doesn’t mean all will publish books on their patients, but I’m sure some will. In this sense, medicine as a human-centered profession is not doomed. Cook County ICU is a great example of a fascinating book of interesting medical cases brought to life.
Title: Cook County ICU: 30 Years of Unforgettable Patients and Odd Cases
Author: Cory Franklin
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publication Date: September 2015