Mrs. Kelly’s Monster (Spoiler: Not An Actual Monster)

Jon Franklin is the only other person on earth that makes brain surgery interesting besides maybe Patrick Dempsey. Franklin used a lot of methods to make this story interesting. I see it as a mini profile on three subjects, Mrs. Kelly, Dr. Ducker and the monster. You can’t understand one without the other. There is a good use of quotes, descriptive passages and fact to tell you the story of the surgery without boring the reader with one style of story telling.

There is a lot of repetition in the story. The “pop, pop, pop” of the hear beat monitor does a good job of keeping Mrs. Kelly as a person present in the rest of the story. Her heartbeat serves to remind the reader that there is a person and a body attached to the brain Dr. Ducker is cutting through. Announcing the time after every major achievement (or lack thereof) is a good way to emphasize how long brain surgery takes, despite small advances. The brain is a delicate organ and you can’t barrel through it. To get to the bundle of vessels in Mrs. Kelly’s brain, Dr. Ducker had to go through several layers of the brain slowly, any wrong move would cause major damage.

Dr. Ducker has more detail to him than Mrs. Kelly herself. Franklin shows how much Ducker cares about his job. Ducker has carried and studied Mrs. Kelly’s x-rays for months, and traveled to various countries and continents to find advice on how to attack this monster. Also, it’s an amazing minor detail that Ducker doesn’t drink coffee so his hands won’t shake in surgery.

The ending was completely unexpected. Most time when medical stories are written they are about survival, and the journey to recovery. The very last three sentences you realize that Mrs. Kelly did not make it through her surgery. Franklin doesn’t outright say that though. “The monster won.” It’s amazing that Franklin pointed out that at 6:30 that morning Mrs. Kelly was alive, but prepared to die. At 1:43 PM, she was dead. It’s a shock to read the ending, but I found it hard to feel bad about it. Mrs. Kelly’s death wasn’t something that was completely implausible- it was expected. The “bad guy” won. That was a harder concept to realize than death.

This is what I imagined the Monster to look like.
Originally Published Feb 7, 2011 @ 13:39

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