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Direct Red: A Surgeon’s View of Her Life-or-Death Profession    by Gabriel Weston order for
Direct Red
by Gabriel Weston
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2009 (2009)

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Gabriel Weston, author of Direct Red, was encouraged to write of her experiences training to be a surgeon. In reading this interesting book (and just having had knee surgery), I agreed concluded that surgeons are human, just like the rest of us.

Weston writes calmly and with compassion while describing standing in an operating room for seven hours holding someone's neck open. What went through her mind about how hard that job is might have gone through our own minds were we in that situation. The main thrust is, though, that one can't quit in the middle of that job and walk away from it. From the moment of the first incision, the surgeon is committed. Doubt is probably not even in a surgeon's mind. He – or she – must not give in to second thoughts.

Surgeons deal with death frequently and therefore can't really reach a personal level with their patients. Heartbreak over the wrong outcome is part of their lives and hard to deal with. Even harder to deal with for the female surgeon is the attitude of her male co-workers. As in the field of chefs, male surgeons seem to feel the field is a male bailiwick, not to be invaded by women.

In spite of the negative aspects of being a surgeon, Weston reveals the scenes behind the operating room with humor and feeling. Using medical terminology, she relates some of her cases while in training. And tells of the thrill of operating without the usual guiding, training hand behind her.

In Direct Red, which is beautifully written, the author talks of her life and achieving the position she now holds. The awareness of holding someone's life in her hands never leaves the reader. I'm glad I had that kind of surgeon.

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