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The Dressing Station: A Surgeon's Chronicle of War and Medicine Hardcover – Jan 2002

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
More Than A Surgeon 5 Feb. 2002
By Walter Lovelace - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A surgeon's odyssey
Jonathan Kaplan
If you are a committed traveller and but also demand to know what's happening behind the scenes of war, revolution and corruption in far-off countries, then THE DRESSING STATION by Jonathan Kaplan is your book. If you are fascinated by an insight into the horrors of surgery and medicine under appalling conditions then this book will suck you down into the grim awareness of every day life as it is for thousand's of people. If you want to know what it's really like to work for the international help organisations then this is one of the few books available.
This is a difficult book to put down. I wanted it to last much longer. Jonathan Kaplan writes as though he is in a hurry. In a hurry to explain why, since wisdom can never be learnt but only experienced, there will always be a need for dedicated doctors and workers in countries where tribal warriors and clan chieftains, outwardly civilised and often called politicians, are allowed by world opinion to slaughter and mutilate as many people as they like. Somebody has to help the victims regardless of which side they happen to support. Jonathan Kaplan seems always to be in the centre of things ready to assist the wounded regardless of who started the fight.
The first sentence of "The Dressing Station" reveals an awful lot about Jonathan Kaplan. "I am a surgeon, some of the time." Immediately you know that he isn't a snobbish specialist in London or New York. You will find out later that he is quite an ordinary person with the remarkable ability of heeling where heeling is most needed. Very soon you feel that he is the man you could have met in the pub, on a midnight ferry in Greece, in some remote village in a country at war.
Read "The Dressing Station" before setting off on your next backpacking trip. Take it with you to read on the boat or the train or on the beach. You won't regret it.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Incomparable Jonathan Kaplan 23 Mar. 2002
By Jonathan Barry - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I had the opportunity to see Jonathan Kaplan speak about his book at a reading in Harvard Square and to chat with him afterward. His unbounded dedication to exploring the developing world and to help remedy the vast horrors in these regions are nothing short of heroic. His experiences and insights provide us with a sharp glimpse into the medical challenges within developing nations while showing that those who stray from conventional paths can alleviate more human suffering in a short time than most of us will ever hope to over the duration of our lives.
Jonathan Kaplan is anything but "self-righteous, smug and sanctimonious," as one reviewer on this web site wrote. After seeing him speak, one realizes that he is the genuine article, a man who thrives on the chaos and challenges of saving lives in areas of the globe to where most westerners would not ever dare travel. When I finished his book, I realized that although the idea of humanity can take many forms, there are few humanitarians in this world who take the same form as Jonathan Kaplan.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A great story about modern wartime medicine! 25 Oct. 2003
By Traderjohn - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you're considering a medical career and would like to learn more about medicine while reading a highly entertaining and engaging story, this it. The author tells a great story with great style. Most of the book revolves around a very non-traditional surgical career that probably won't be applicable to readers (unless you plan on working in war torn countries for a living), but it still fascinated me medically and professionally.
The only negative statement I can make (and this is nit-picking) is there isn't more pictures and maps. This is a true story about fascinating people and places explained in great detail. It would have been great to see what the characters and patients really look like. And most of locations are so foriegn that maps of the villages and battle fields would have helped me follow the story better.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Graphic and Evocative 10 Sept. 2004
By C. Macauley - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anyone hoping to write a memoir on working overseas should read this astonishing and totally engrossing autobiography. Kaplan has led the life of a wandering surgeon, pursuing his career on five continents over the course of 30 years, and dabbling in fields as diverse as filmmaking, medical research, and battlefield trauma surgery.

South African by birth, Kaplan fled to the U.K. during the turbulence of the late 1970s and then did medical research in the US. Only boredom and curiosity led him to volunteer to work on the Iraq-Turkish border during the Gulf War, an experience that inspired him to seek out dangerous and bizarre jobs in Kurdistan, Mozambique, Eritrea, Burma, and the Brazilian Amazon. In every case, his consummate skill as a surgeon serves him well and allows him to save lives under the most desperate circumstances. Moreover, his humanism, compassion and intuition lead him to record vivid insights into human behavior under these extreme situations.

The descriptions of his surgical procedures are elegant but thoroughly clinical, intended for other professionals, and yet flavored with a kind, earthy sense of humor and even modesty. Strangely, he is often silent in regard to his own personal growth during these many years of globetrotting, and the reader is sometimes left trying to grasp Kaplan's own motivations.

Although the book contains few dates, I gathered from other clues that Kaplan worked in Brazil and Mozambique at the same time as I did, and so I can confirm his tale of nearly being killed by bandits on the road to Swaziland-a common occurrence-and of children poisoned by mercury in the Amazon. His prose is graphic, imaginative and evocative; he leaps breathlessly from one adventure to the next in a career so filled with horror and beauty that you just know it has to be true.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Man's inhumanity 24 Aug. 2003
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
You do not meet many people like Dr Jonathan Kaplan, more's the pity.
In this beastly world, where there's so much death and destruction, we need people to pick up the pieces, and not many can or do. Not many are even capable of doing so.
Dr Kaplan is multi-talented - he has certainly picked up the pieces and sewn them together and saved lives in war zones around the world. This is voluntary work, and the stories are horrific. I cannot understand how he could be criticized for it. It is lucky that he can also write so well, and give the rest of us an idea of what is really going on.
The account of the rough times is broken by a welcome break as he describes his time as a ship's doctor, and as a doctor, flying anywhere in the world to check out patients for insurance companies.
He gives interesting background to the various conflicts he finds himself in and the people he meets and also side trips he sometimes is able to make in the numerous countries he finds himself in. He was even able to take a quick trip around my island, Bali, when the cruise ship dropped anchor there. Maybe I met him.
I would recommend this book to anyone. It is well written and readable and has won several prizes already. It will give you an insight into another slice of life.
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