Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe (copy)

“When I walked into the infant’s hospital room for the first time the lights were off and the shades down, in the middle of the day.

The pediatric neurology team was crowded around the crib. The senior neurologist was holding a flashlight up against the baby’s head, and all the residents and medical students stared at the resulting spectacle: a round, pinkish, glowing orb.

Because most of the skull was filled with fluid and not brain, and a baby’s scalp and skull are normally relatively thin, the light was able to pass right through, lighting up the head in an eerie display.”

This is just one of the many stories Katrina Firlik relates in her new book, Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside. Firlik was the first woman to be accepted into the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s neurosurgery residency program. This book tells of her training and eventual mastery of the mind.

She is very humble throughout the book, explaining that her job isn’t rocket science. She sees her roll as more of a mechanic, using her hands to relieve pressure on the brain, as a grease monkey might loosen a bolt. She states, “If you have an expanding blood clot in your brain, you want a skilled brain mechanic, and preferably a swift one. You don’t care if your surgeon published a paper in Science or Nature.”

One could say her mantra throughout the book is “this is not rocket science,” but, hello, it is brain surgery. She reminds me of a certain person who can’t accept compliments without devaluing herself. Hum?

The book can be graphic at times; for instance, she tells about the removal of a flush, two-inch, carpentry nail. If you get a little woozy reading about maggots and pus, please reach for something else. If not, you will find Firlik humorous at times. She may even settle a bet about the movie Hannibal for you.

The title, and the fact that Firlik is one of only five percent of women serving in the neurosurgery field, might lead a reader to think the book encompasses male incompetent situations, but this is not the case. She never dishes the dirt of others, but rather tells of her own mistakes, which makes for a refreshing take that will win male and female readers alike.

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