Score: 96/100 (9.6 out of 10)
Halloween Horror: True ER Terror by Adam Ankrum will certainly go down as one of the most entertaining, captivating, and shocking of all the non-fiction books this season!
It is absolutely un-put-downable!
So what makes this book such a page-turner? Well, it comes at you from the perspective of a medical doctor who has seen it all: missing limbs, eyes dangling out of peoples' heads, murder (and attempted murder), cancer that has overgrown an entire organ, super premature babies who are barely viable if at all, the severely mentally ill, people who are so deep into liver failure that both their eyes and skin have turned yellow, and more!
There were so many memorable, unforgettable cases in this book that we couldn't help but share our favorites amongst each other like they were yesterday's office gossip or NFL scores from the weekend. This is probably the most we've ever talked about a book. It really started some conversations!
The medical stories in this book range from absurd to hilarious to shocking to vomit-inducing to mindboggling to tragic to heartbreaking (which is a level beyond tragic). This is the most range we've ever seen or experienced in a book!
There were times when we were in tears. There were times when we were cracking up laughing. There were times we need to keep down what we'd just eaten because the tale was so sick.
Speaking of funny, one of our favorite reoccurring things in this book are the snake tales. No, it's not because we love snakes; quite the opposite: we HATE snakes. But they gave us some of the funniest moments in this book such as when the doctor exclaims at his patient that they've just been bitten by a poisonous snake and need to take it seriously. There's another incident in which we learn that the doctor (narrator) has a snake at home named Drago who was purchased at the behest of the doctor's wife (as a pet for their children). Well, guess what? The darn snake gets loose while the doctor is at work and on his shift, and his family gets stuck at night with a snake wandering their home!
The doctor has really bad bedside manner at times, but it is funny to read when he breaks (which is totally understandable given what he's confronted with). One example is when he passionately confronts a soon-to-be-widowed husband about his power of attorney and keeping his wife alive when there is clearly no hope of her recovery. We can see both sides of this debate, and it really engaged us.
One issue that keeps coming up is: who takes responsibility for the results (negative or positive) of a case? The doctor is always torn between calling the time of death or deferring to someone else, often times a specialist in the patient's illness or condition. It's shocking to most of us that, despite the fact that “doctor” or “MD” carry so much weight, doctors are human and fallible like the rest of us. They don't know everything, and they can't do everything. We were surprised how many times this incredible, knowledgeable doctor found himself lost, confused, bewildered, and having to get help or advice from someone else. The premature baby situation is probably the best example as the doctor clearly did not know what to do about a NICU situation like that.
We were also surprised at how involved the doctor was at stopping or helping to investigate violent crimes or even murder/attempted murder. There are at least two such examples of this. One is the case in which an Asian man comes into the ER having been stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife after being caught having an affair. The craziness doesn't stop there when the police bring in the assailant who has apparently chopped off his own fingers in a psychotic rage!
Another such case involves elderly abuse when a suspicious “handyman” brings in an elderly patient, claiming that she is a Jehovah's Witness and therefore cannot have a blood transfusion. The doctor is quick to notice how sketchy this all is and actually does some investigating of his own, believing that the handyman might actually be trying to get the woman killed to possess her property.
The stories that haunted us the most were the ones about the self-mutilation, amputations, and the loss of eyes and even a penis. People are NUTS! And you can literally feel the discomfort of the doctor and the rest of the medical staff when confronted with these people, especially those suffering from severe schizophrenia. Imagine having to be in close contact with people who have just chopped off their own penises, chopped off their own fingers, or ripped out their own eyes and are now proudly showing them to you!
Yeah, this book pretty much has it all!