Raising the Dead: A Doctor's Encounter with His Own Mortality

Overview

The former surgeon writes of his own near-death experience after being diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease and lapsing into a coma. The fragility of health and robustness of imagination merge when this seemingly healthy man's legs collapse suddenly beneath him, propelling him into a 23-day coma triggered by Legionnaire's Disease. Here, Selzer relives his illness, allowing the reader a highly personal glimpse into his delirium as he skates the line between life and death. This tale of survival remains ...

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Overview

The former surgeon writes of his own near-death experience after being diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease and lapsing into a coma. The fragility of health and robustness of imagination merge when this seemingly healthy man's legs collapse suddenly beneath him, propelling him into a 23-day coma triggered by Legionnaire's Disease. Here, Selzer relives his illness, allowing the reader a highly personal glimpse into his delirium as he skates the line between life and death. This tale of survival remains unsentimental as Selzer grounds what was surely a terrifying experience in humor, emphasized by use of third person narrative.

Diagnosed w/Legionnaire's disease, author lapsed into coma & began struggle between life & death.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1991 surgeon Selzer ( Mortal Lessons ), stricken with Legionnaires' disease, was in a coma for 23 days and nearly died. Here he recalls ``the extravaganza of death'' in a way that is at once odd, funny and moving, written in an abstract, detached third-person narrative that is purposefully disquieting. His description of his near-death experience is riveting as he looks outside his own body at what is happening, a flat EKG for 412 minutes with no signs of life: ``It is strange, this painless death.'' Through his dead eyes we see a nurse writing the details of Selzer's demise on the chart, then he starts to breathe again. His eyes fling open. ``After ten minutes of certified death, this man has . . . risen. Risen!,'' reminiscent of Lazarus and Christ. The reader sees life through Selzer's ``myopic haze'' as he is haunted--and haunts us--with his travels to a ``Lotus land'' of monasteries, the Nile, the Abbey of St. Ronan and meetings with Father Damien of leper fame. Compared to his ``death,'' his full recovery at home is uneventful as Selzer reminds us that ``death is easy; it is the return of life that requires courage.'' (Feb.)
Library Journal
Selzer was a surgeon at the Yale School of Medicine before he turned full time to writing. His books have been well received, in particular his essay on the art of surgery, Mortal Lessons ( LJ 12/1/76), and his memoir, Down from Troy ( LJ 6/15/92). However, this new book will not help his reputation. Selzer here describes his bout with Legionnaires' disease: 23 days in a coma, being declared dead, and subsequent recovery. He does not describe his feelings in any detail except to recite his dreams. He even ``cites'' his medical chart to describe what happened but at the end says that he made up his chart. After completing this book, the only impression this reviewer was left with was, ``Why did I read this?'' There is nothing to help patients in similar circumstances; nor are there any of the insights into health and medicine that Selzer is known for. Not recommended.-- Eric D. Albright, Galter Health Sciences Lib., Northwestern Univ., Chicago
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870136047
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 118
  • Sales rank: 1,073,109
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Selzer is the author of numerous books and articles. He is a former surgeon and professor of surgery. Selzer taught writing at Yale University and is the recipient of dozens of awards and honors, including a Pushcart Prize, National Magazine Award (for his essays), an American Medical Writer's Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship. His work has been published in New American Review, Esquire, Harper's, and other periodicals.

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