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 has just injected a syringe full of potassium chloride into John Doe. Even though potassium and chloride are two of the most abundant electrolytes in the human body, when the heart is "flooded" with a massive concentration of potassium, it fibrillates and stops pumping. One of the first things we were taught as interns: never give a patient a bolus (a syringe full) of potassium chloride. The correct way to treat low potassium is to dilute the potassium chloride solution in a bag of IV fluid and give it over several hours.
The Final Push
Nurse Johnston entered the room first, followed closely by a surgery intern. The intern nudged Higgins out of the way and began pumping on the chest. Higgins backed into a corner as the controlled chaos of the code unfolded. ICU nurses, internal medicine residents, surgery residents, medical students, a respiratory therapist, a blood gas tech, and, of course, the Leadership hag, poured into the small room. Nobody could move. Nobody could hear. The internal-medicine chief resident stood at the head of the bed, told one person to charge the defibrillator paddles, and another to get the drugs ready. The respiratory therapist disconnected the tracheostomy tube from the ventilator and used an ambu bag to hyperventilate the patient. Someone cut off his gown so the paddles could be placed directly on the skin. A nurse rummaged through the drawers of the code cart, grabbing amps of epinephrine, amiodarone, atropine, dopamine and lidocaine. Another nurse with a clipboard documented who, what, when, how much, the blood pressure, the heart rhythm.