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Leading A Double Life

Kwei Quartey

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Leading A Double Life

Leading A Double Life

Kwei Quartey

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Followers
4
Plays
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Stories from Dr. Kwei Quartey about being both a crime writer and a physician

Latest Episodes

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_007

Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 7 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, reflections on being a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, part one of a series on African Literature African Literature: What is it? African literature has been much written about. There is still debate about what it really is, its themes and its style and content. A notable aspect is that it includes both the oral and written literatures. The etymologic definition of literature is “writing formed with letters,” from the Latin littera (letters). Therefore, Pio Zirimu, a Ugandan scholar, suggested the word orature to replace the self-contradictory “oral literature.” Despite the ingenuity of the name, it didn’t really take hold, and “oral literature” is still the more popular term among scholars. Included in oral African literature is the African heroic epic. A prime example is the Sunjata (or Sundjata/Sundiata) Epic of the Mendeka peoples, relating the legend of Sunjata, the 13th century king of the Mali Empire. What is the stereotype about written African literature? The oral form of African literature is frequently mentioned and acknowledged in papers and books, but even supposedly knowledgeable scholars hold the view that written African literature barely made any appearance before the 1950s (as a result of colonization). In other words, before Chinua Achebe’s famous Things Fall Apart and other African writers’ works of that era, there was no good African literature to be found. TFA was one of the first African novels to garner international critical acclaim, but was that all there was? No, says Princeton professor of medieval, early modern, and modern African literature, Wendy Laura Belcher. She notes in her paper on African Literature, An Anthology of Written Texts from 3000 BCE to 1900 CE that while historians labor to overturn privailing misconceptions that Africa is a place without history, literary critics have done little to overturn a mistaken view that Africa has no literature. Some Westerners believe that writing on the continent was not done by Africans or in African languages. Belcher emphasizes, and others back her up, that in fact there is an at least 3000-year history of African writing. Why has some African literature escaped notice (or been ignored)? Much of African literature over the last millenia has disappeared from view because it has not survived, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, but extant texts refer to these ancient documents as having existed. Second, many works were not published and therefore went unknown. Third, very few were translated from African languages into European languages, and they were therefore ignored. As much as scholars probe and dissect shining examples of twentieth century African literature, Belcher points out there are historical precedents to the works of the prominent modern-day African writers. For example, it could be argued that the pidgin English works of Amos Tutuola (The Palm-Wine Drinkard), (which Dylan Thomas called “fresh, young English”), Ken Saro-Wiwa (Sozaboy), and Uzodinma Iweala (Beasts of No Nation) were well preceded by Antera Duke‘s eighteenth century diary, which was written in Nigerian pidgin English and carried to Scotland by a Scottish missionary. Where is that ever mentioned in popular analysis? Historical categories of African literature One subsection of African literature emerged from the writings of Africans living outside of Africa– both slaves and African youths whom European colonists sent to study in England, France, Portugal, Italy, Holland and Germany. The Interesting Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789), was written by former slave Olaudah Equiano, who described the awfulness of slavery and the slave trade.

10 MIN2017 JUL 23
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LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_007

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_006

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE__EPISODE 006 Trials of a doctor-in-training—Part 1 Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 6 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, Trials Of A Doctor-In-Training, Part 1 In medical school, there are certain main subject categories like Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Pathology, and so on. A med student has to study a lot, although there isn’t as much dry reading as there is in law school, for example. In case law, you might read a case Mr. X versus the State that is page after page of long, wordy paragraphs. In medicine, cases might have images to support clinical situations and break up the tedium. In neurology, for instance, you have diagrams of neural pathways that you must learn in order to understand a particular neurological disorder. It makes understanding the pathology easier, although it doesn’t necessarily give you less to memorize. In histopathology, a student is tested on the human tissues and different types of cells seen under a microscope. One of the most intimidating types of exams is when you’re given a certain amount of time, say 30 seconds, to identify a human cell type, and you must move onto the next station when the examiner rings the buzzer. Falling behind in writing down your answers can be a catastrophic domino effect. Among the subjects medical students have the most anxiety about, Anatomy is probably the mother of them all. It’s the study of the structure of bodily parts and their physical relation to each other, and the study of human anatomy traditionally involves dissection of the human body much the way many of us dissected frogs or mice in high school or college. For most freshmen and fresh-women in medical school, human anatomy is the first time to see and experience a dead body. I remember I was a little apprehensive about what it would be like, but I recall some other students who were almost paralyzed with anxiety. I remember the dissection hall as a large room with two long rows of stainless steel tables upon each of which was a male or female cadaver. My reaction to the bodies was surprisingly muted. They had an unreal, waxy, Madame Tussauds appearance. The skin texture was nothing like a live human. They reeked of the formaldehyde preservative, and sometimes it was so strong as to make my eyes water. In the end, I think even the students who were most worried about the cadavers got used to the idea pretty quickly, and two or three weeks in, no one batted an eye. Each student is usually assigned to a pod of 7 to 10 colleagues who stay together as a group with the same cadaver for the duration of the semester. Each pod follows the syllabus under supervision by a medical fellow, that is, a junior physician specializing in the field. The study of the cadaver’s anatomy follows major regions or systems of the body: head and neck, upper limbs, chest, abdomen and so on. But within each of those are subdivisions: for example, the head and neck will include the lymphatic, neurological and muscular systems. Whether you get a male or a female cadaver is luck of the draw, as is the amount of adipose tissue your cadaver has. Consider yourself lucky if you have a lean body. They are much easier to work with. I know of one medical school that traditionally has the staff and students hold a moment of respectful silence before the first cuts on the cadavers are ever made. They were once living human beings, and in a way they have sacrificed their bodies to us for the sake or our learning from them. I think that moment of silence is a wonderful gesture, and I wish my medical school had done that as well. Now, working in groups like our Anatomy pods is not always easy. One medical student often turns out to be something of a leader within the pod,

10 s2017 JUL 2
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_006

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_005

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE__EPISODE 005 Religion, Marriage, and Murder Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 5 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, what ...

13 MIN2017 JUN 12
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_005

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_004

It's surprising how much similarity there is between a physician and a crime investigator.

11 MIN2017 MAY 25
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_004

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_003

Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 3 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, How I Got Published. One of the top most exciting times of my life was the day in 2008 that I learned Random House had accepted my first novel, WIFE OF THE GODS, for publication. My phone was buzzing with messages back and forth to and from my agent as she negotiated the deal. But I have to go back in time, because it was a decades-long road to that hallowed major publisher destination, and Random House is huge. After graduating from my Internal Medicine residency, I had returned to my old love of fiction writing. As a pre-teen, I’d written several adventure and mystery novels and won a few fiction-writing contests. My parents were very supportive and encouraging of my efforts, but at no point did they ever force me to write. I did it at urgings from within. I believe wanting or needing to write is something indigenous. It’s a part of me as much as the necessity to eat and sleep. I had been working as a newly employed Los Angeles physician for about a year when I began my first novel. At that time, I’d joined a writing group run by a former editor at one of the large publishers, and the literary world was buzzing about a steamy new novel called Destiny by Sally Beauman. It had been only half completed when it got a million-dollar advance from Bantam Books. It debuted at number six on the bestseller list a week before it was even published. It was 848 pages long, and one of those stories described with adjectives such as “sprawling” and “sweeping.” It was Danielle Steele-ish but was more explicit in its description of romantic exchanges, to put it delicately, particularly one jaw-dropping scene that everyone who read it remembers. I certainly do. I was quite taken with Beauman’s tome, and nothing preaches success like success, so I wrote my first novel called A Fateful Place along the lines of Destiny. Mine had an international flavor, taking place in England and the United States, with elements of the fashion world and British aristocracy. Essentially, Fiona, a young American woman visiting England mistakenly believes she has lost her baby boy, Julian, during a tragic ferry accident. In fact, the child has survived and been sold to a rather dodgy upper class British couple unable to have their own child. The lives of Fiona and Julian are separate until by happenstance they cross, and with devastating results. There were holes in the plot of this story large enough to drive a truck through. The question I have now is how I managed to fill some 750 pages with this story. I doubt I could do that now. I don’t recall how many literary agents I sent the manuscript to, but I could have built a paper house with all those rejection letters. Apart from the plot being grossly flawed, who was going to give any standing to a black author writing about the British and American white upper class? I should explain that most publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts; that is ones that haven’t passed through a literary agent, who is, I suppose you might say, a gatekeeper. While I was waiting—in vain as it turns out—for an agent to snap up In A Fateful Place, I embarked on a new work of fiction based on the independent movie, Battle Of Algiers, about the war from 1954 to 1962 between Algeria and her French colonizers. I don’t remember which came first—the movie, or my interest in the war, but at any rate I personalized the historical events with a fictional character, Kamila, which was also the book’s title. Kamila, a young Algerian woman working in the French Quarter of Algiers, is caught up between the rival attentions of an Arab nationalist and a wealthy Frenchman. This novel I wrote very quickly—in about three months.

14 MIN2017 MAY 9
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_003

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_002

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE__EPISODE 002 Code Blue Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 2 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, stories of what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, Code Blue. The emergency room double doors burst open and two ambulance guys tear in with an unconscious man on their gurney. The ER trauma team usher them in as one of the EMS techs gives a brief rundown of what has happened. The man is a gunshot wound victim. As soon as he’s hooked up, the cardiac monitor shows he has flat-lined. The physician leading the team barks orders for IV infusions and different medications to inject into the victim’s veins in an attempt to resuscitate him. There’s been no response in the first ten seconds. “He’s still flat-line!” the doctor yells dramatically. “We need to shock him!” A team member removes the counter-shock paddles from the defibrillator, applies gel to their surface, rubs them together and puts them on the unconscious man’s chest. “Clear!” she shouts, and everyone steps back from the gurney. A shock is delivered, causing the man’s body to lift involuntarily a couple of inches off the bed. This could be a typical code blue scene from any number of popular television series about the drama in an urban ER. Pretty exciting, right? Maybe, but there are a couple big bloopers in the scene I’ll reveal to you a little later on in the podcast. But before I do that, here’s another scene, quite different, this time from a Netflix show called Rosewood: Preparing for a postmortem exam, Morris Chestnut as Beaumont Rosewood, a forensic pathologist, stands over a dead woman on an autopsy table. Rosewood has blue nitrile gloves on and wears a red V-neck shirt with dark blue jeans. He picks up the scalpel to begin his first incision. If you haven’t already figured out what’s wrong with that scenario, I’ll let you know in a little bit. TV programs and movies with medical or forensic content may consult physicians or other medical experts to ensure the scenes come off realistically. However, I feel American TV in particular appears preoccupied with having physicians, staff, and patients all young and beautiful. In the real world, it is often the graying, experienced physicians and nurses who are in charge of the team on duty in the ER. A dying patient really doesn’t care how beautiful his lifesavers are. My observations are that Europeans and Scandinavians are less afraid to show plain, average looking people on TV and in movies. The point is, they appear both genuine and genuinely smart. I don’t have much need for Code Blue situations in my detective novels, but forensic pathology and postmortem exams are a different matter. They are relevant and often crucial. All of my Inspector Darko Dawson books include at least one autopsy, and my novel Death By His Grace briefly describes some of the fascinating forensics of blood spatter—fascinating to me, anyway. By the way, if you use Luminol to make traces of blood fluoresce, the blood is destroyed forever and you can’t run any DNA on it. There’s something mesmerizing about the autopsy ritual—the donning of protective clothing before entry into the postmortem room, the approach to the dead person lying motionless on the autopsy table, examination of the external body before the traditional Y-incision made on the cadaver’s chest, and the anticipation of what information lies in wait to spring its surprise. It’s important to me also that the pathologist treats the dead body with respect, no matter how maimed and disfigured it may be. The murder victim is a silent self-witness to the crime. She can’t speak, but the autopsy is the way we ask her to nonverbally tell us the story of what happened. It’s certainly poignant, even maybe a little sad,

12 MIN2017 MAY 4
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_002

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_001

Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 1 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, stories of what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This ep...

9 MIN2017 MAY 4
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_001
the END

Latest Episodes

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_007

Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 7 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, reflections on being a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, part one of a series on African Literature African Literature: What is it? African literature has been much written about. There is still debate about what it really is, its themes and its style and content. A notable aspect is that it includes both the oral and written literatures. The etymologic definition of literature is “writing formed with letters,” from the Latin littera (letters). Therefore, Pio Zirimu, a Ugandan scholar, suggested the word orature to replace the self-contradictory “oral literature.” Despite the ingenuity of the name, it didn’t really take hold, and “oral literature” is still the more popular term among scholars. Included in oral African literature is the African heroic epic. A prime example is the Sunjata (or Sundjata/Sundiata) Epic of the Mendeka peoples, relating the legend of Sunjata, the 13th century king of the Mali Empire. What is the stereotype about written African literature? The oral form of African literature is frequently mentioned and acknowledged in papers and books, but even supposedly knowledgeable scholars hold the view that written African literature barely made any appearance before the 1950s (as a result of colonization). In other words, before Chinua Achebe’s famous Things Fall Apart and other African writers’ works of that era, there was no good African literature to be found. TFA was one of the first African novels to garner international critical acclaim, but was that all there was? No, says Princeton professor of medieval, early modern, and modern African literature, Wendy Laura Belcher. She notes in her paper on African Literature, An Anthology of Written Texts from 3000 BCE to 1900 CE that while historians labor to overturn privailing misconceptions that Africa is a place without history, literary critics have done little to overturn a mistaken view that Africa has no literature. Some Westerners believe that writing on the continent was not done by Africans or in African languages. Belcher emphasizes, and others back her up, that in fact there is an at least 3000-year history of African writing. Why has some African literature escaped notice (or been ignored)? Much of African literature over the last millenia has disappeared from view because it has not survived, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, but extant texts refer to these ancient documents as having existed. Second, many works were not published and therefore went unknown. Third, very few were translated from African languages into European languages, and they were therefore ignored. As much as scholars probe and dissect shining examples of twentieth century African literature, Belcher points out there are historical precedents to the works of the prominent modern-day African writers. For example, it could be argued that the pidgin English works of Amos Tutuola (The Palm-Wine Drinkard), (which Dylan Thomas called “fresh, young English”), Ken Saro-Wiwa (Sozaboy), and Uzodinma Iweala (Beasts of No Nation) were well preceded by Antera Duke‘s eighteenth century diary, which was written in Nigerian pidgin English and carried to Scotland by a Scottish missionary. Where is that ever mentioned in popular analysis? Historical categories of African literature One subsection of African literature emerged from the writings of Africans living outside of Africa– both slaves and African youths whom European colonists sent to study in England, France, Portugal, Italy, Holland and Germany. The Interesting Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789), was written by former slave Olaudah Equiano, who described the awfulness of slavery and the slave trade.

10 MIN2017 JUL 23
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_007

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_006

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE__EPISODE 006 Trials of a doctor-in-training—Part 1 Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 6 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, Trials Of A Doctor-In-Training, Part 1 In medical school, there are certain main subject categories like Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Pathology, and so on. A med student has to study a lot, although there isn’t as much dry reading as there is in law school, for example. In case law, you might read a case Mr. X versus the State that is page after page of long, wordy paragraphs. In medicine, cases might have images to support clinical situations and break up the tedium. In neurology, for instance, you have diagrams of neural pathways that you must learn in order to understand a particular neurological disorder. It makes understanding the pathology easier, although it doesn’t necessarily give you less to memorize. In histopathology, a student is tested on the human tissues and different types of cells seen under a microscope. One of the most intimidating types of exams is when you’re given a certain amount of time, say 30 seconds, to identify a human cell type, and you must move onto the next station when the examiner rings the buzzer. Falling behind in writing down your answers can be a catastrophic domino effect. Among the subjects medical students have the most anxiety about, Anatomy is probably the mother of them all. It’s the study of the structure of bodily parts and their physical relation to each other, and the study of human anatomy traditionally involves dissection of the human body much the way many of us dissected frogs or mice in high school or college. For most freshmen and fresh-women in medical school, human anatomy is the first time to see and experience a dead body. I remember I was a little apprehensive about what it would be like, but I recall some other students who were almost paralyzed with anxiety. I remember the dissection hall as a large room with two long rows of stainless steel tables upon each of which was a male or female cadaver. My reaction to the bodies was surprisingly muted. They had an unreal, waxy, Madame Tussauds appearance. The skin texture was nothing like a live human. They reeked of the formaldehyde preservative, and sometimes it was so strong as to make my eyes water. In the end, I think even the students who were most worried about the cadavers got used to the idea pretty quickly, and two or three weeks in, no one batted an eye. Each student is usually assigned to a pod of 7 to 10 colleagues who stay together as a group with the same cadaver for the duration of the semester. Each pod follows the syllabus under supervision by a medical fellow, that is, a junior physician specializing in the field. The study of the cadaver’s anatomy follows major regions or systems of the body: head and neck, upper limbs, chest, abdomen and so on. But within each of those are subdivisions: for example, the head and neck will include the lymphatic, neurological and muscular systems. Whether you get a male or a female cadaver is luck of the draw, as is the amount of adipose tissue your cadaver has. Consider yourself lucky if you have a lean body. They are much easier to work with. I know of one medical school that traditionally has the staff and students hold a moment of respectful silence before the first cuts on the cadavers are ever made. They were once living human beings, and in a way they have sacrificed their bodies to us for the sake or our learning from them. I think that moment of silence is a wonderful gesture, and I wish my medical school had done that as well. Now, working in groups like our Anatomy pods is not always easy. One medical student often turns out to be something of a leader within the pod,

10 s2017 JUL 2
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_006

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_005

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE__EPISODE 005 Religion, Marriage, and Murder Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 5 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, what ...

13 MIN2017 JUN 12
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_005

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_004

It's surprising how much similarity there is between a physician and a crime investigator.

11 MIN2017 MAY 25
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_004

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_003

Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 3 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, How I Got Published. One of the top most exciting times of my life was the day in 2008 that I learned Random House had accepted my first novel, WIFE OF THE GODS, for publication. My phone was buzzing with messages back and forth to and from my agent as she negotiated the deal. But I have to go back in time, because it was a decades-long road to that hallowed major publisher destination, and Random House is huge. After graduating from my Internal Medicine residency, I had returned to my old love of fiction writing. As a pre-teen, I’d written several adventure and mystery novels and won a few fiction-writing contests. My parents were very supportive and encouraging of my efforts, but at no point did they ever force me to write. I did it at urgings from within. I believe wanting or needing to write is something indigenous. It’s a part of me as much as the necessity to eat and sleep. I had been working as a newly employed Los Angeles physician for about a year when I began my first novel. At that time, I’d joined a writing group run by a former editor at one of the large publishers, and the literary world was buzzing about a steamy new novel called Destiny by Sally Beauman. It had been only half completed when it got a million-dollar advance from Bantam Books. It debuted at number six on the bestseller list a week before it was even published. It was 848 pages long, and one of those stories described with adjectives such as “sprawling” and “sweeping.” It was Danielle Steele-ish but was more explicit in its description of romantic exchanges, to put it delicately, particularly one jaw-dropping scene that everyone who read it remembers. I certainly do. I was quite taken with Beauman’s tome, and nothing preaches success like success, so I wrote my first novel called A Fateful Place along the lines of Destiny. Mine had an international flavor, taking place in England and the United States, with elements of the fashion world and British aristocracy. Essentially, Fiona, a young American woman visiting England mistakenly believes she has lost her baby boy, Julian, during a tragic ferry accident. In fact, the child has survived and been sold to a rather dodgy upper class British couple unable to have their own child. The lives of Fiona and Julian are separate until by happenstance they cross, and with devastating results. There were holes in the plot of this story large enough to drive a truck through. The question I have now is how I managed to fill some 750 pages with this story. I doubt I could do that now. I don’t recall how many literary agents I sent the manuscript to, but I could have built a paper house with all those rejection letters. Apart from the plot being grossly flawed, who was going to give any standing to a black author writing about the British and American white upper class? I should explain that most publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts; that is ones that haven’t passed through a literary agent, who is, I suppose you might say, a gatekeeper. While I was waiting—in vain as it turns out—for an agent to snap up In A Fateful Place, I embarked on a new work of fiction based on the independent movie, Battle Of Algiers, about the war from 1954 to 1962 between Algeria and her French colonizers. I don’t remember which came first—the movie, or my interest in the war, but at any rate I personalized the historical events with a fictional character, Kamila, which was also the book’s title. Kamila, a young Algerian woman working in the French Quarter of Algiers, is caught up between the rival attentions of an Arab nationalist and a wealthy Frenchman. This novel I wrote very quickly—in about three months.

14 MIN2017 MAY 9
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_003

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_002

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE__EPISODE 002 Code Blue Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 2 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, stories of what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This episode, Code Blue. The emergency room double doors burst open and two ambulance guys tear in with an unconscious man on their gurney. The ER trauma team usher them in as one of the EMS techs gives a brief rundown of what has happened. The man is a gunshot wound victim. As soon as he’s hooked up, the cardiac monitor shows he has flat-lined. The physician leading the team barks orders for IV infusions and different medications to inject into the victim’s veins in an attempt to resuscitate him. There’s been no response in the first ten seconds. “He’s still flat-line!” the doctor yells dramatically. “We need to shock him!” A team member removes the counter-shock paddles from the defibrillator, applies gel to their surface, rubs them together and puts them on the unconscious man’s chest. “Clear!” she shouts, and everyone steps back from the gurney. A shock is delivered, causing the man’s body to lift involuntarily a couple of inches off the bed. This could be a typical code blue scene from any number of popular television series about the drama in an urban ER. Pretty exciting, right? Maybe, but there are a couple big bloopers in the scene I’ll reveal to you a little later on in the podcast. But before I do that, here’s another scene, quite different, this time from a Netflix show called Rosewood: Preparing for a postmortem exam, Morris Chestnut as Beaumont Rosewood, a forensic pathologist, stands over a dead woman on an autopsy table. Rosewood has blue nitrile gloves on and wears a red V-neck shirt with dark blue jeans. He picks up the scalpel to begin his first incision. If you haven’t already figured out what’s wrong with that scenario, I’ll let you know in a little bit. TV programs and movies with medical or forensic content may consult physicians or other medical experts to ensure the scenes come off realistically. However, I feel American TV in particular appears preoccupied with having physicians, staff, and patients all young and beautiful. In the real world, it is often the graying, experienced physicians and nurses who are in charge of the team on duty in the ER. A dying patient really doesn’t care how beautiful his lifesavers are. My observations are that Europeans and Scandinavians are less afraid to show plain, average looking people on TV and in movies. The point is, they appear both genuine and genuinely smart. I don’t have much need for Code Blue situations in my detective novels, but forensic pathology and postmortem exams are a different matter. They are relevant and often crucial. All of my Inspector Darko Dawson books include at least one autopsy, and my novel Death By His Grace briefly describes some of the fascinating forensics of blood spatter—fascinating to me, anyway. By the way, if you use Luminol to make traces of blood fluoresce, the blood is destroyed forever and you can’t run any DNA on it. There’s something mesmerizing about the autopsy ritual—the donning of protective clothing before entry into the postmortem room, the approach to the dead person lying motionless on the autopsy table, examination of the external body before the traditional Y-incision made on the cadaver’s chest, and the anticipation of what information lies in wait to spring its surprise. It’s important to me also that the pathologist treats the dead body with respect, no matter how maimed and disfigured it may be. The murder victim is a silent self-witness to the crime. She can’t speak, but the autopsy is the way we ask her to nonverbally tell us the story of what happened. It’s certainly poignant, even maybe a little sad,

12 MIN2017 MAY 4
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_002

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_001

Hi, everyone, and welcome to episode 1 of my podcast Leading A Double Life. I’m Kwei Quartey, a physician and author of the Inspector Darko Dawson novels. On my podcast, stories of what it’s like to be a medical doctor and a writer. This ep...

9 MIN2017 MAY 4
Comments
LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE_001
the END
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