It is hard not to feel stressed within the opening pages of this powerful memoir. As Yumiko Kadota – with humour and heart – attempts to finish a mug of strong coffee, the interruptions from the hospital where she is a young plastics doctor are endless. Her morning routine is timed to the minute and you feel your own teeth clench as she debates whether to let her phone reception drop out in the apartment lift (and miss a call. She can never miss a call) or stay in her hallway and risk being late for work.
This anxiety surge sets the tone for a day racing through wards, constantly shifting urgency lists, and apologising to exercised patients when their surgery is bumped back for a more pressing issue. It is a prologue to a moving account of the horrors often thrusted upon medical interns, an exhausting and sometimes tragic price to pay for wanting to be a doctor.
Kadota charts her chronology from birth in Tokyo to moves to The Philippines, Singapore, London and eventually Sydney, where she becomes, in her words, “every Asian parents’ dream” of a top medical student. It is a world ripe for burnout, as she goes on to explain in often exquisite detail. On her first day of university, classmates compare decimal points of what degree of 99 they got in their University Admission Index. As a student doctor, she is scolded by a tutor during her first hospital session for not knowing the difference between nauseated and nauseous.
At almost 400 pages, it’s a lot of memoir for someone in their early thirties. But it is more than worth sticking with the early cataloguing of more everyday occurrences, for the pressure building over time only intensifies the acute emotional punch as Kadota measures the human cost of her once dream career.