Title: Past Medical History
Author: Don Stewart
Publisher: DSArt, LLC
Past Medical History is a compilation of short stories chronicling the life of Dr. Don Stewart, who grew up with the singular goal of becoming a physician, then quit the day he earned his medical license to make a life and a living as an artist. It’s The Devil Wears Prada meets The House of God, with a character who sees his own career circling the drain, pronounces it DOA, and turfs himself to an art studio for treatment. It’s Patch Adams, with an attitude; The Things They Carried, dressed up in scrubs and a white lab coat.
This series of stories draws a clear picture of a doctor who recognized the pitfalls of his chosen profession, discharged himself from the hospital, then took his life in a more creative, and far healthier direction.
The man had nine tubes running into and out of his body the day he died.
Two IVs directed fluids and medications, drugs flowing into one arm to keep his blood pressure up, in the other to coax it back down, with antibiotics, anti-emetics, acid blockers, blood products and pain killers piggy-backed onto Y-shaped access ports, or pumped in measured doses through blue computerized boxes clamped to metal IV poles.
A third line penetrated deep into the man’s chest, entering above the his collar bone, coursing through the great thoracic vessels and the right-side chambers of his heart, its round balloon tip resting snugly in the terminal arteries of his lungs. Above, a thin yellow feeding tube emerged spaghetti-like from his nose, while down below a thick red rubber catheter drained the man’s bladder into a bag hooked onto the side of his bed. Another did what it could to channel the volumes of liquid feces that had plagued this patient for too many days, and took up far too much of the intensive care nurses’ valuable time in sanitary maintenance, skin care and linen changes.
Clear plastic tubes the size of small garden hoses exited either side of the patient’s chest, each connected to a low-suction vacuum canister that functioned to keep his fragile lungs inflated – lungs that had already popped like loose bubble-wrap from the air forced into them through a similar tube that traversed the length of his throat. This was the tube he had hoped to avoid. The one that just one week earlier he had made me promise, promise not to let anyone put into him…
Good Help Is Hard To Come By
(Good Thing I Didn’t Have to Look Far To Find It)My wife likes to brag about how she didn’t waste any time going to medical school on her way to becoming a professional artist. She came from a medical family, and she certainly had, and has the smarts for it. But unlike me, she went arrow-straight for the art.
She did well, too, earning two undergraduate degrees in the subject before being snatched up by Hallmark and kept busy designing cards for seven years, then going out and establishing a thriving illustration studio on her own: www.ZooLNArt.com.
All of which is to say that I listen when she tells me a drawing needs a little more shading before I can call it finished, or when she says that a paragraph needs a little more depth, or that my grammar could suffer a little polishing before a story is complete.
Yep, she’s word-smart, too. I can’t get away with nothing… er, anything.
I knew therefore that I would be an idiot to try and keep her from passing judgment on every line of every story that made it into Past Medical History, or from applying her years of experience and graphic sense to every detail of the book’s design, from page layout to cover art. I also knew that without her computer wizardry, the book would still be locked up somewhere in a Word document, trying to find its way to the printer.
This book is definitely not a road map on ‘How To Become An Artist’. It’s not a tale of struggle and triumph through compromise. It’s the story of a quitter – a story with a very happy ending.
Yes, my journey through medical training was tough, and it didn’t turn out the way anyone thought it was supposed to. But it did provide enough time and pressure to force me to look deep inside, and determine what was important in life.
It also gave me enough material to write a pretty good book about the trip.
Good thing the Missus was waiting for me to find along the way, and that I was smart enough to ask her to come along for the ride. Past Medical History probably wouldn’t have made it out of my head if she hadn’t been there to listen to my stories, offer constructive criticism when it was needed, and give her final approval after (and only after) it was earned.
Maybe one day she will write a book, too. Something like How To Keep My Husband In Line. Now that’s a book with a ready-made audience, a best seller just waiting to happen.
Don Stewart has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Art, with honors, from Birmingham-Southern College, and an MD from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He also served a year-long surgical internship at the Mayo Clinic, where he published some of his first composite drawings, and won awards for poetry and short fiction.
Dr. Stewart’s short stories have since been published in Pulse–voices from the heart of medicine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Placebo Journal, and The Journal of Irreproducible Results, where he is listed as honorary Art Editor. For four years he served as Contributing Editor to Informal Rounds, the newsletter of the University of Alabama Medical Alumni Association.
For the past quarter century he has made his living as a self-styled Visual Humorist, hammering words and pictures together at the DS Art Studio Gallery in Birmingham: www.DSArt.com
. You can also find him at www.PastMedicalHistoryBook.com
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