While on call for the trauma service, third-year medical student Michael Higgins finds himself in an extraordinary situation. He is summoned to the ER to participate in the evaluation and management of a critically-injured patient and soon discovers that the unconscious man lying before him is the same man who, two months earlier, committed a heinous act of violence that shattered Michael’s personal life. Following a lengthy emergency operation, the patient—known only as John Doe—is now under the care of the trauma team, of which student doctor Mike Higgins is a member. As John Doe’s condition gradually improves, Higgins’ personal life deteriorates further, but there might be a way to reverse the downward spiral: if he sees to it that John Doe never leaves the hospital, Michael Higgins’ world may right itself.
I’m a former heart surgeon turned fiction writer. I write what can be described as medical mysteries, medical thrillers or novels of medical suspense, but I prefer to think of them as novels of surgical suspense.
What is surgical suspense? Surgeons, surgical diseases and the operating room are all inherently dramatic. As a former surgeon, I’ve experienced this drama first hand and thought it would make for good fiction. My surgery training took me from the knife-and-gun-club of LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, to the famed Bellevue Hospital in Midtown Manhattan. My education as a writer includes an MFA degree where I was mentored by New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane, among other accomplished faculty.
I know a lot about medicine and surgery, I know a lot about writing and storytelling, and I believe that combining this vast and unusual right-brain/left-brain experience will make for interesting reading and discussion, so please visit often.
Third-year medical student Mike Higgins is going to kill a man, a patient for whom he is caring, but before he does, he goes over his plan one last time.
The Final Push
For the thousandth time, Higgins reviewed his plan. First he’ll insert the syringe into the jugular venous catheter. Then he’ll pass the nasogastric tube through the nose and slip it halfway down the esophagus. This will induce gagging, coughing and agitation. Despite a lingering brain injury and depressed mental status, John Doe will writhe in the bed and fight the tube. The EKG tracing at the nurse’s station will be obscured by irregular lines of artifact, which happens whenever a patient moves. Then, with a firm push of thumb on syringe, millions of potassium-chloride ions will travel down the jugular vein catheter and into the right atrium of the heart. The potassium ions—the real killers of the duo—will quickly pass through all four chambers and down the coronary arteries, where they will infuse directly into the cardiac myocytes—the muscle cells of the heart. The cells will be instantly paralyzed. Doe’s heart will fibrillate. Organized contraction will cease. Blood flow to the vital organs will stop. The brain dies, the man dies.