This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Medical Resident, Adam Kay 2017

Kay trained for six years in obstetrics-gynecology after medical school in the UK and he recounts the memorable and mostly very funny incidents that happened during those years of exhaustion, terror, and learning.  There were many ‘laugh out loud’ moments as I read of Kay’s encounters with patients and the often ridiculous situations they put themselves into.  Less funny were the stories of the obstetric emergencies, one of which ended in the death of the baby and the likely compromise of the surviving mother.  It was the latter case that led him to leave medicine and pursue a career as a comedian and screenwriter.  The success of this book (1.5 million copies sold in the UK and a UK Book of the Year award) speaks to the public’s endless obsession with doctors that also manifests itself in the number of TV shows that began with Ben Casey, MD and Marcus Welby, MD when I was a young man.  Today’s Gray’s Anatomy and ER continue the tradition, and Kay’s book is a very funny addition to the oeuvre.  However,  the final chapter chronicling a disastrous cesarean section which ended with a dead baby and a critically ill mother reminded me of the stakes at risk in being a doctor and of the reasons that I, too, left medicine after practicing intensive care for 20 years longer than Kay did.  Medicine is a demanding and difficult (some would say, impossible) job for a job is what it is at the end of the day.  Caring for the sick, relieving pain and anxiety, saving lives—it all gets a bit much especially when one is exhausted, depleted, and often unappreciated.  I loved the gift and privilege of being a physician, but like Kay, at some point the humor wears thin and it’s time to move on.  I’d recommend this book for my fellow physicians, especially those I trained with at the MGH and Children’s back in the 1970’s, but not sure it’s a good book for the general reading public, and I’m certain it’s not a good book to read if you or your wife or a loved one is pregnant.

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