Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq by Dr. Chris Coppola

A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq cover

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq
by Dr. Chris Coppola

Hardback: 272 pages
Publisher: NTI Upstream
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Buy w/ 10% of price donated to War Child
Buy from Amazon

Source: ARC from publisher

Book Description (how it was pitched to me):
Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq is the fierce, true-life account of Dr. Chris Coppola’s two deployments in Operation Iraqi Freedom as an Air Force pediatric surgeon. Twice stationed at Balad Air Base, fifty miles north of Baghdad, in what was first a rude M*A*S*H*-style tent hospital and later became one of the largest U.S. military installations on foreign soil, Dr. Coppola works feverishly to save the lives of soldiers and civilians as word spreads among Iraqi families that, no matter what the infirmity, he can save their children.

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq is a fascinating medical memoir that gives a unique look at the events in Iraq from the point of view of the medical staff who dealt with the injured in Jan. 2005-May 2005 and Sept. 2007-Jan. 2008.

Most of the book was about Coppola's first deployment. He recounted a variety of surgeries he performed--including those performed on American military, Iraqi policemen and military, terrorists, civilian adults and children. But it mostly focused on the children. If graphic descriptions of surgery make you queasy, then this is not the book for you.

He also described what life was like on the base during his down-time. Since most military memoirs are by those who worked "outside the wire," it was interesting to see what life was like for someone who worked "inside the wire."

In the second section of the book, Coppola described what life was like when he came home. In the third section, he described a few cases but mainly focused on the differences in the facilities and incoming casualties between his first and second deployments.

While there were references to God (mainly by the people he worked with), this book did not have any religious theme. And, while Coppola made his personal feelings about being deployed quite clear, he only briefly referred to his mixed feelings about the war. Whether you feel that going to war is right or wrong, I suspect this book won't offend your feelings.

Military and medical jargon was explained in the text so I was never confused about what was being said. However, the book was written primarily in first person present tense ("I see" instead of "I saw"). At times, this sounded awkward to me, but it wasn't too distracting.

There were several black-and-white photos of people, places, and things mentioned in the memoir. There was a very minor amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a look into the medical side of war.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

[From page 23] I am promptly summoned to the ER again, where I meet up with Trevor. Our patient is a young man who has been shot in the abdomen. He stares up at us with wild eyes and moans in pain. His face is pale. He gasps for air from an oxygen mask. A twenty-two-year-old Iraqi policeman, he has been shot on his right side, just were his ribcage joins the abdomen. The bullet has left a hole the size of a silver dollar, and eviscerated a loop of his small intestine. It protrudes from his abdomen like a swollen bloody bagel. The intestine still looks alive, but one end of it has been shredded by the projectile and leaks green fluid.

[They take him in for an operation, but he's lost a lot of blood so they call for a blood drive. Picking up on page 26:]

We have a limited supply of blood in the hospital. Just one patient with substantial loss can deplete our reserves. If a patient needs numerous transfusions, they become deficient in factors such as platelets, not found in stored blood. For these reasons, we use fresh whole blood transfusion. Whole blood isn't stored in the blood bank; it is stored in the "walking blood bank." Even though it is two in the morning, soon after the request goes out over the Giant Voice System, there are two-dozen troops lined up in the hallway outside the blood bank.

Back in the OR, Trevor and I work to repair the tattered vena cava.

Read more from the book.


Jennifer said...

I am currently reading this book and it's really great so far! I'll be posting my review and an author interview for the virtual book tour on Thursday - I'd love for your to stop by!


Genre Reviewer said...


Sure! I'll drop by tomorrow to see what you thought of the book. :)

Cara Powers said...

I actually hadn't read this before. I really didn't think the medical bits were too graphic at all.

Genre Reviewer said...


I didn't mean to imply that I found the medical bits too graphic. I didn't. I liked the level of detail he gave about the medical procedures and such. However, some people (like my dad) tend to get queasy from this level of description of surgery, so I thought I should mention it.