By Richard Selzer

A tumultuous 12 months within the lifetime of a tender health professional through the Korean struggle.

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Extra resources for Knife Song Korea (Excelsior Editions)

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He was ill at ease almost all the time now, the fever on a low burner, capable at any moment of flaring and laying him low for days at a time. He was often forced to stagger on his rounds, weighty and limp. Slight anxieties such as arose in cases of moderate complexity were enough to sap his small reserves, leaving him dizzy, his skin thrilling to waves of fever. In moments of real stress—in difficult surgeries or childbirth—his shallow quick breath would come bursting against his clenched teeth and in his chest a fluttering as though a deck of cards were being shuffled beneath his breastbone.

Peroxide. ” He gently irrigated the eye socket, wiping away clots, picking out loose stringy ends of tissue, bits of vegetation that had been driven in. There was bleeding at the base, too much to let alone. This is going to hurt. “Hold his arms and his legs. Grab his head, too. Tight. Hold it tighter. Tighter. ” 53 He leaned down and breathed into the boy’s ear, close enough for his lips to touch. “Okay now, it’s going to hurt. Try to keep still. Really try. ” He prepared the sutures, threading the black thread through the eye of a curved needle, then fitting it into the jaws of the hemostat.

He leaned on it with his hand, trying to hold it in. A large coil escaped between his fingers and fell across the back of his arm. “Pour. Pour faster. Get him down, he’s going to vomit. Turn his head to the side. Hold it, keep it down. Don’t let him choke. Now pour, please, pour goddamnitall. ” He felt the boy’s body loosening again, sliding into unconsciousness, the edges of the wound relaxing. ” With infinite care he replaced loop after loop. ” It was all in. ” When it was done he said, “You are good good boys.

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