cover image The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER

The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER

Thomas Fisher. One World, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-23067-1

In this riveting debut memoir, Fisher, an emergency room doctor at the University of Chicago Medical Center in the city’s South Side, recounts his experiences during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. Starting in February 2020, he documents daily life in the hospital during the initial surge of Covid-19 cases, offering fascinating details about abrupt changes in visitation policies, the complex process of donning and removing personal protective equipment, and how medical personnel dealt with short supplies of inhalers and other medical devices. In addition to tending to Covid-19 patients, Fisher treated victims of the South Side’s notorious gun violence. Throughout, he eloquently captures the intensity of the situation—“Standing near unmasked COVID patients,” he writes, “feels like being in the room with someone holding a gun”—and shares heartrending stories of victims, including a healthy 32-year-old woman who suffered a stroke as a result of the virus. In letters addressed to patients and family members, Fisher also reflects on growing up on the South Side in the 1980s and how the shooting death of a Black high school basketball star helped inspire his medical career, as well as spotlighting systemic racism within the U.S. health care system. The result is a powerful reckoning with racial injustice and a moving portrait of everyday heroism. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis Agency. (Mar.)