The story starts during a busy day working in an ER in the rural Pacific Northwest. In the middle of his shift, the author finds out that his mother on the east coast has been diagnosed as having end stage liver disease and will probably not survive without a liver transplant. Over the next weeks, it becomes clear that there isn't going to be a suitable liver unless it comes from a living family member, even though this is medically unchartered territory. Subsequently, he travels through his life and career, using his experience to gain insight into his family and profession. As would be expected, he finds that the two are intricately linked.
Along his journey, he has to deal with where his profession has gone. Eventually comes the realization that western medicine has become a high value industry that has lost sight of its purpose. As an alternative, the author explores some aspects of oriental medicine, confronting it's attributes as well as its limitations.
The procedure itself turns out to be a hellacious experience, made worse by his knowledge. Having worked for years within the system that he has trusted his life with, the author had expected this knowledge to help protect him. What he does find is that this very knowledge is a detriment, both in dealing with the system as well as his own mental health.
But the real focus of this journey is the family and culture he tries to leave behind, but ultimately, finds him.
The author is an Internal Medicine Physician who practices in rural Emergency Rooms in the coastal area of the Northwest. After growing up and training in the NYC region he moved his wife and 2 children to the West Coast, looking to escape his roots. Here he was quite content raising his family and enjoying the outdoors until he was called back East to donate part of his liver to save his dying mother.
The author's adventure rehashes his odyssey to the West Coast. Educated and trained in Newark New Jersey, his Internal Medicine Residency involved exposure to the New Jersey Liver Institute. This was followed by a brief Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh's Intensive Medicine Program. As it would happen, this program involved rotating through the Liver Transplant Unit, the same Unit where he found himself 10 years later as a patient.
Since the ordeal, Dr Stefanelli has returned to practicing Emergency Medicine in rural hospitals. He also has resumed his numerous outdoor activities. However, his professional life has taken on a different perspective.