From My Bookshelf: Life on the Ground Floor

From My Bookshelf

By Lynn Willoughby

Life on the Ground Floor: Letters From the Edge of Emergency Medicine ~ James Maskalyk

This is a deeply personal book for the author as he writes about his life as an emergency room doctor in Toronto, his humanitarian work in Ethiopia and his visits with his elderly grandfather in northern Alberta.  I really liked this book and learned a lot about medicine.

Maskalyk’s chapters are alphabetical;  A is for airway,  B is for Breathing and so on.  Sometimes he is in a state of the art emergency room with all the latest equipment and various specialists a phone call away.  Sometimes he is in a small tin room with an x ray machine that doesn’t work, needles that are far to big for a collapsed vein and a fully equipped, donated ambulance that no one knows how to drive.  “Decisions are what keep things flowing in the ER and they must be made in the face of incessant interruptions….”

The author is working to train ER physicians in Ethiopia, which has no such system in place.  And while someone is bleeding out on the ground from an horrific wound, the family members are bringing out wrinkled, dirty, sweaty currency to pay to keep their loved one alive.  The first four residents Maskalyk trains are overwhelmed, underpaid, with little useful equipment and certainly no specialists to call for advice.  They are each on their own in that tiny, crammed ER.

I learned that Lalibela, an ancient city and one of Ethiopia’s spiritual homes, is a wonder as grand as Machu Pichu or Angkor Wat, its church, carved from solid stone, is still being used!  Why didn’t I know about that??

I also learned that injera – a kind of bread made from the seeds of teff grass, eaten at every meal, is both plate and utensil.  Both teff grain and flour are banned from export as it is high in iron, calcium and protein and has allowed Ethiopians to flourish in a place where vitamins are otherwise scarce.This is a great read.

Who Knew?

An average body contains 4.7 to 5.5 litres of blood.  If two thirds of that blood is lost, death is imminent.