When the Breath Becomes Air

(book review)

There are people whose activities are so exciting that they seem to be endowed with superhuman qualities. In particular, such are doctors who are not afraid to operate, for example, the main organ of the central nervous system – the brain. In their profession, these people can resemble robots: clarity and balance of movements at work, balance in character, which helps to experience both victories and failures.

At least, it seems so at first glance, only when a person is at work. As it turns out, in fact, these professionals who save other people’s lives are ordinary people with fears, dreams and memories. One of them is Paul Kalaniti, a neurosurgeon and part-time writer. In 2016, his book ‘When the Breath Becomes Air’ was published. But unfortunately, it was not completed by Paul due to the exacerbation of the disease, so the end of the book was written by his wife, who tells the last months of Paul from the outside. The book is a memoir of a 36-year-old doctor who diagnosed stage 4 lung cancer. He studied to be a neurosurgeon for more than ten years and was separated from becoming a professor for only a year and a half. Paul received good job offers, he had a young wife and plans that were constantly postponed.

As a physician-philosopher, he was very sensitive to the feelings of his patients and their loved ones. Until the death he struggled with every day in the operating room knocked on his own. The illness immediately dashed all his plans for a happy family life, dreams of research and a writing career. The diagnosis “forced” Paul to visit hundreds of his patients, to feel this despair, pain and fear. After all, fate does not care that he is a doctor, and that it was he who diagnosed, not him. Who but the doctor himself best understands what awaits a patient with such a diagnosis.

Paul courageously continues to fight the disease: he finishes his studies, saves patients and does not give up, but begins to live! He spends a lot of time with his family, gives new life to his beautiful daughter Candy with his wife, and finally realizes the dream of his whole life – he begins to write his own book, becoming a professor of neurosurgery.

In the pages of the novel, the author raises serious philosophical themes: is life worth living, what gives it meaning in the face of death, etc. He also reflects on the human possibilities in this life, because he remembers many of his patients, whom he could not save. Including myself.

The book may be of interest to a wide range of readers. It will be appreciated not only by doctors or people who are interested in medicine, because the author conveys to the reader not only the responsibility and complexity of the profession of neurosurgeon. Reading the novel, you can consider current topics and problems in the life of almost everyone, which relate to both everyday trifles and more global issues. Paul Kalaniti demonstrates true endurance by the example of his own life in the pages of his book. He is not afraid to go to his goal and help others, despite the difficulties. My rating is 10/10.

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