Dueling in Death’s Backyard by Thomas J. Berger, M.D.
What is it like to stop a heart and duel with death in his own backyard with a human life at stake? Until now only a cardiac surgeon could know.
And only a cardiac surgeon with the skills of a Faulkner award winning writer could bring readers not just into the OR but into the heart itself to share that cosmic experience. In Dueling in Death’s Backyard, “Doc B” (Thomas J Berger, MD, FCCP – trained by Dr. John Kirklin, the true Father of Cardiac Surgery) does exactly that and does it in the context of a medical murder mystery exposing a VA hospital scandal from decades before they became front page news.
After 13 hours and 30 units of blood, Cooper Logan and his mentor, Holt McDuff had nearly succeeded in replacing the old farmer’s entire dissected aorta. When the final suture line exploded, they were soaked sticky scarlet in seconds and what had been a human being became a pile of organic junk. If the difference was a soul, it had slipped unseen through their fingers. Although he hadn’t slept in days, Cooper insisted on closing and breaking the news to the family. At least he could spare Holt those depressing final chores. A wrestling scholarship had taken Cooper from a troubled youth in Boston to a surgical residency in Birmingham, Alabama, where he fit in like a Hell’s Angel at a British High Tea. He was more Clint Eastwood, as Rowdy Yates, than Richard Chamberlain, as Dr. Kildare, and everyone kept telling him he didn’t look like a doctor.
Cooper was obsessed with becoming a cardiac surgeon — stopping hearts and pitting his scalpel against Old Grim’s scythe right there in Death’s backyard. Most doctors spend their lives avoiding such situations. Only Cooper, and other cardiac surgeons, live to fight on that mystic battlefield for the life of every patient. Culture shock and hospital politics threaten Cooper’s chances for success, but with Holt’s help he is on track to complete his residency. Then, conflict with a drug addicted nurse and her powerful protector get Cooper fired. His lover dumps him and it seems that things couldn’t get much worse.
Then they do.
The druggy nurse is murdered and Cooper is framed for the crime. Dr. McDuff seems to want to help but has his own secret agenda. To save his dream and his life, Cooper must unravel a mystery decades older than he is, and solve a murder in the process. “Gently cooper . . . Caress her. The coronary is a woman . . . Caress her with the scalpel and she will open herself for you.”