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On Call: Stories from my life as a surgeon, a daughter and a mother by Ineke Meredith



As her mother journeyed through surgery and chemotherapy for advanced colon cancer, Ineke Meredith was caring for others as a new consultant. In On Call, the Kiwi female general surgeon shares her personal stories of life, death and bravery. 


From a man presenting with fishhooks in his stomach to being punched in the face by a patient, it’s all in a day’s work in the intense world of surgery.


'I started writing stories about the patients I was seeing. The funny, the good, but mostly the bad. Because this is really what we carry. The stories were important to me, because as a family member of someone terminally ill, I realised that as a surgeon we only see a tiny snapshot of someone’s life, and actually we only see the patient. The patient is someone’s wife, or husband, someone’s mother, or daughter and a terminal diagnosis impacts everyone in that ecosystem. It can tear families apart,' says Ineke.


'I wrote because people that we see are part of bigger stories, and I didn’t want to forget that. In fact, you can’t forget a lot of them.'


Ineke began writing On Call as a catharsis and she expertly intertwines the story of her mother’s illness with those of the patients she has seen during her varied career. The hardest thing about being a surgeon (or working in healthcare) is not enough time, nor resources, she says.


'One of the things that also inspired me to write On Call was the simple fact that the vast majority of surgical memoirs have been written by male surgeons, many of whom portray a godliness in the profession which might have existed at another moment but prevails no longer. Furthermore, female surgeons, in particular, have a reputation for being cold for many reasons. This could not be further from the truth,' she says.


Funny, happy and sad stories are shared alongside her own life as a single young mother in surgical training and as a daughter to a sick parent. Even with emergency operations in the early hours of the morning and constantly being mistaken for a nurse, there is still laughter amidst the chaos.


This is an extraordinary memoir from inside the operating theatre leading Ineke to ask: are the sacrifices of a life in scrubs worth it?


Ineke Meredith was born in New Zealand to parents of mixed-Samoan heritage. She spent part of her childhood in Samoa but moved to New Zealand after winning a scholarship to study medicine. She also founded Fur Love, a dog skin and body care business.


Reviewer: Andrea Molloy

HarperCollins

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