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The Dressing Station: A Surgeon's Chronicle of War and Medicine

by Jonathan Kaplan

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1532181,972 (3.53)None
In this "vividly compelling" New York Times Notable Book, a surgeon recounts his experiences in war zones (The Washington Post).   From treating the casualties of apartheid in Cape Town to operating on Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Iraq at the end of the Gulf War, Jonathan Kaplan has saved (and lost) lives in the remotest corners of the world in the most extreme conditions. He has been a hospital surgeon, a ship's physician, an air-ambulance doctor, and a trauma surgeon. He has worked in locations as diverse as England, Burma, Eritrea, the Amazon, Mozambique, and the United States.   In his "eloquent . . . beautifully written" memoir of unforgettable adventure and tragedy, Dr. Kaplan explores the great challenge of his career--to maintain his humanity in the face of incredible pain and suffering (The New York Times Book Review). "Packed with moments of searing intensity," The Dressing Station is an "extraordinary" look into the nature of human violence, the shattering contradictions of war, and the complicated role of medicine in the modern world (The Washington Post).   "In this refreshingly unsentimental memoir, [Kaplan] offers a vivid look at what it's like to practice medicine in places where there are always too many casualties and not enough resources. His descriptions of surgery are unflinching . . . Kaplan gives us a remarkable self-portrait of the war junkie." --The New Yorker… (more)
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Jonathan Kaplan trained as a doctor in Durban, South Africa and then left for London rather than serve in an army dedicated to upholding apartheid.

But he never settled, neither in his career nor in his soul. His existential angst led him to work on the frontline of wars across the world and eventually into documentary film-making exposing the horrors of armed conflict.

Kaplan is most at peace in the Homelands of South Africa treating the poorest of the poor with the most disgusting of diseases, these people he regards as his compatriots. Every now and again there is a diversion from his stressful choice of career as when he serves as a cruise ship surgeon aboard a rust bucket bobbing around the South China seas or is up the Amazon investigating mercury poisoning.

But it is the ending, the last page and a half that illustrates Kaplan's supreme humanity when he links the richest and the poorest through the body's common responses to stress, something he knows about from many angles. As he writes the final words, perfect words, its the 'ahh' moment, the moment you understand, we are all the same.

Rewritten 25 March 2013 ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
Part travel writing, part confession, part reporting and part dissection of different aspects of the medical profession, Dr Kaplan's book is a whirlwind tour from one intense crisis spot to another. For the most part his tone is clinical and coolly professional, but beneath the businesslike writing is a book of enormous, conflicted emotions. Certainly not the cheeriest of reads. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Jan 9, 2008 |
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In this "vividly compelling" New York Times Notable Book, a surgeon recounts his experiences in war zones (The Washington Post).   From treating the casualties of apartheid in Cape Town to operating on Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Iraq at the end of the Gulf War, Jonathan Kaplan has saved (and lost) lives in the remotest corners of the world in the most extreme conditions. He has been a hospital surgeon, a ship's physician, an air-ambulance doctor, and a trauma surgeon. He has worked in locations as diverse as England, Burma, Eritrea, the Amazon, Mozambique, and the United States.   In his "eloquent . . . beautifully written" memoir of unforgettable adventure and tragedy, Dr. Kaplan explores the great challenge of his career--to maintain his humanity in the face of incredible pain and suffering (The New York Times Book Review). "Packed with moments of searing intensity," The Dressing Station is an "extraordinary" look into the nature of human violence, the shattering contradictions of war, and the complicated role of medicine in the modern world (The Washington Post).   "In this refreshingly unsentimental memoir, [Kaplan] offers a vivid look at what it's like to practice medicine in places where there are always too many casualties and not enough resources. His descriptions of surgery are unflinching . . . Kaplan gives us a remarkable self-portrait of the war junkie." --The New Yorker

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