Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The SPIRIT of the HEART Stories of Family, Hope, Loss, and Healing by Ismael N. Nuno, M.D.


Doctor Ismael N. Nuno, M.D. is a Heart surgeon in California. I must mention he is Latino because the surgeon is very proud of  his roots. He loves his roots deeply.  In The SPIRIT of the HEART Stories of Family, Hope, Loss, and Healing Dr. Nuno writes about the memorable patients, families and surgeries he has worked with throughout the years. It seems like his heart is as huge with kindness as his patients hearts are desperate for a surgeon to help them survive when it looks like they can't survive another week, month or year. Dr. Nuno is very humble. He never gives himself total credit for their survival and their ability to enjoy life for a longer time. He divides that extraordinary gift with a Higher power. It's an inner talk with himself. How much does science have to do with heart transplants and how much is not science. This inner talk became more personal, I think, after Dr. Nuno lost his mother, wife and daughter to heart trouble. He knows what heart disease can do to a body. He's lived through it on a personal level which makes the stories more personal as well.

Since he is so humble, I never would have guessed that he gives his time and intelligence to shows on t.v. so that they won't go in the wrong direction where medicine is the star role in the movie or on t.v. He's worked behind the scenes on the t.v. show Emergency . He's appeared on House M.D. and when Pope John was dying Dr. Nuno gave consultations on CNN about what was happening to the Pope during his surgery ordeal. As far as I could tell by reading I would never turn Dr. Nuno away if he chose to operate on my heart. However, he is now retired. I wonder how a man who worked so hard in operating rooms, going so far as to climb atop a patient to continue pumping the heart as the gurney rolled down the hall, would handle his time outside of an operating room. I'll bet he still listens to Classical music.

Dr. Nuno also talks about bullfighting. Going to bullfights in Mexico was a big part of his life. He made me sit up in my seat again when I had gotten to this part of the book. These are the last words of a famous bullfighter, Yiyo who was murdered by a bull. "Este toro me ha matado" I couldn't have said it better myself if I were in that moment. I suppose it was best to leave the bullfighting until the latter part of the book. It's incredible how Dr. Nuno can see the matadors, bulls and rings as a parallel to the operating room. I wish he would write poetry about heart surgeries and bullfights.

There are more than enough stories in the memoir. My hardest chore is picking my favorite story. One sticks out where he has to tell a woman her husband has died on the table. Dr. Nuno takes it very seriously when he has to tell a patient their loved one has died. He takes them into his personal office and talks to them. When he told this woman her husband had died, she didn't faint. She didn't cry. She opened her purse and pulled out a small figurine of Jesus. With all the force in her body, she threw the Jesus figurine on the floor. In other words she had trusted Jesus to save her husband, and he failed her. After she left his office, Dr. Nuno tried to sweep the pieces up himself. The rest of the pieces he asked a janitor to get up. For quite a few years Dr. Nuno's shoes would still step on the tiny, shattered parts of the lady's Jesus. It seemed as if her anger and disappointment was so strong it would never leave his office reminding him of what she thought of as the failure of religion to answer prayer.

I think part of Dr. Nuno's Epilogue gives a better idea of the character of this man. He writes "The visitation of the spirits, the supernatural, the space in time and mass beyond a worldly body in all of the living creatures on earth all come to mind. The noises in the night, the winds in an empty room and the recently passing away of a patient, a friend or a loved one come to mind...I close my eyes and I let the winds of my mind cheer them all on to a world of peace and tranquility."
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