Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Books Campaign: Operating Room Confidential

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.
It's been a while since I've done anything even mildly activisty or socially conscious on my blog (for shame, I know), so when I got an e-mail inviting me to be a part of the 2010 Green Books Campaign, I jumped at the chance. Since I'm still far too in love with my "old-timey" books printed on paper to trade them in for an e-reader, the next best thing seems to be to get on the bandwagon with printing books in as environmentally-sustainable a manner as possible.

The book I chose to read for the Green Books Campaign is Operating Room Confidential by Paul Whang. It is printed by ECW Press on FSC Certified paper, 98% of which comes from recycled materials. FSC certification ensures that forest products used are from responsibly harvested and verified sources ( I chose Operating Room Confidential from a list full of intriguing environmentally friendly options because it plays into my day job, which I am forced to work at to fund my book habit. If you don't know, I work in a surgical pathology lab at a pretty busy hospital and, as a result, have a fair few interactions with surgeons. Besides still being in the dark about much of what happens behind the operating room doors, I was eager to see how Whang's impressions of surgeons matched with my own experience.

Dr. Whang is an anesthetist at a busy Toronto hospital and, as such, has the opportunity to observe the goings-on during many operations performed by a variety of surgeons. With a candid, conversational tone peppered with anecdotes and insider observations Whang guides us through a day in the operating room in a way that is both entertaining and informative. Whang covers topics ranging from the daily protocol of the operating room (the 5 second rule applies to nothing, for the record), the types of patients doctors fear the most (lawyers, other doctors, doctors' family members), personality types of the various medical specialties, as well as some cold hard information about what to expect if you, yourself, are about to go under the knife.

At the start, I very much enjoyed Dr. Whang's exposure of the daily happenings of the operating room. His observations and anecdotes are told with insight and wit, and I learned some interesting things, some of which confirm a good deal of what you see on Grey's Anatomy isn't so far beyond the pale. I definitely found myself in agreement with many of his comments on hospital hierarchy and the frustrating disconnect between administration and the people actually doing the hard work of caring for patients on a daily basis. I am, however, happy to report that my hospital differs from Whang's on the food front. He comments at length, in a very funny section, about the terrible lack of quality in hospital cafeteria food.

As I came into the home stretch of the book, though, it began to lose my interest a bit. Toward the latter end of the book, Whang spends a good deal of time giving us information, some of which is valuable and some of which consists of surgery details that I almost wish I could un-read. Whang's in depth description of his function as an anesthetist, what good anesthesia looks and feels like for the patient, and how to aid recovery with good pain management are valuable and, I think, comforting for those about to undergo surgery. On the other hand, his very detailed descriptions of, for example, the minutiae of knee or hip replacement surgery made me cringe and I would heartily recommend not reading these portions if you foresee these sorts of surgeries in your future. The idea of having one of these mostly routine procedures one day in my hopefully distant future distresses me more than ever having read the details.

I do think knowledge and a certain amount of preparedness is definitely helpful when it comes to undergoing and recovering from a surgical procedure, and Operating Room Confidential does a good job of providing us with this information. That said, though, there is a point past which ignorance is bliss, and I fear that, just a time or two, Whang's explanations go beyond that point. Other than these few instances, though, Operating Room Confidential is an engrossing and honest portrait of what goes on behind closed doors, both the good and bad, and I would recommend it to anybody who's ever been curious about the innermost workings of a hospital. The faint of heart might just want to skip that last chapter. ;-)

(Thanks to the publisher for providing my copy in conjunction with the Green Books Campaign).


  1. sounds like this book gave you a lot to think about and find in common with the author.

  2. Yeah, I'm not sure I want to know all those surgery details either. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

  3. Thanks a lot for writing this, it was unbelieveably informative and told me a ton