Memories of a Neurosurgeon: Book Review of Judith’s Pavilion: The Haunting Memories of a Neurosurgeon, by Dr. Marc Flitter

BY MAT SGAN

As I sat on the UU Church bench, Marc went to his car and emerged with a copy of the subject book, which he handed to me. I was delighted to receive it. I take such pleasure in learning of the accomplishments of friends and family. They never cease to astound me as they arise from conversation and observation. More delight came in reading in the book. Congregation Sof Ma’arav participant and all-around Jewish community member, Dr. Marc Flitter is well known in Reform, Chabad, and Conservative Jewish circles in Honolulu. His book is not Jewish, although there is no shortage of Jewish humor and references, as might be expected from a surgeon who chooses to set up practice in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Unlike so many other personal career odysseys, this book is not about success stories. Rather it is about those moments when all of a surgeon’s training, hard-won knowledge, and motivation to save a life, occasionally fall short of the mark. Such failure can occur immediately or during an extended period. In any case, Dr. Flitter relies on his physician’s orientation to cope with, while at the same time explaining, the aftermath.

Marc’s empathy, sympathy, and experiences are on display and come into play throughout the book. I felt that I knew and cared for every one of the characters (patients, doctors, relatives of patients) because he introduced them so well. Not the least of my interest was his capture of the Yiddish tone and texture (mostly funny) that he slipped in as, most likely, tension relievers for the author as well as the reader.

The book will be of interest to all who have faced in one form or another the surgeon’s knife. I read it with great interest although I had trouble with the demands that it made on my ability to read all of the descriptions of the actual operations. I am very squeamish when it comes to opening a deep cut in someone’s cranium with a scalpel! Or trying to remove a piece of wood that entered a child’s brain through the eye. Only the recognition that Marc was working to save and to perpetuate life and that his endeavors might inspire others to follow his course carried me forward.

I decided on certain actions post reading of Judith’s Pavilion. I brought the copy that Marc gave me to the library at Temple Emanu-El so more people could learn of and benefit from it. I also sent a copy to my son-in-law surgeon (yes, our daughter married a doctor.) I want him to read about my friend, Dr. Marc Flitter, who wrote a book about himself – a courageous, humorous, and informed surgeon with a devotion to being humane, human, and humble in his efforts to repair the body and soul of people and, in part, the world.