by Madi Sinha (@sinhamadi)
Editor: Katie McCoach (@katiemccoach)
(Formerly, Love and Hippocrates)
Adult Women's Fiction
Following in her late father’s footsteps, brilliant and driven Norah Kapadia just landed the job that she’s been working toward for practically her whole life. And she’s ready to quit.
Disgruntled patients, sleep deprivation, and one particularly unfortunate incident involving a defibrillator have her questioning her life’s dream of being a doctor. She’s finding her intern year more grueling than she ever imagined. Then she meets Ethan: brilliant, charming, the chief resident. He’s everything Norah wants, and everything she wants to become. When he kisses her over a patient’s gangrenous foot, things are definitely starting to look up.
But then there’s Elle: alluring, confident, a surgery resident who’s everything Norah is not. She takes Norah under her wing, and if it weren’t that Ethan and Elle were sleeping together, Norah might not despise her so much.
And there’s also the famous cardiothoracic surgeon who thinks Norah’s job is to get his car inspected and otherwise run his errands.
And the oncologist who tries to have her fired for telling the truth.
And the patient, Fat Dan, who refuses to die.
And the other one, Mrs. Tally, who undoes them all.
When a lethal mistake is made, and Ethan asks for her help in a cover-up, Norah must decide how far she’s willing to go to keep the secret. Will she deceive a patient’s family, betray Elle, and risk her career to protect Ethan and the hospital? What if doing no harm means hiding the truth?
A women’s fiction complete at 80,000 words, THE ANATOMY OF EVERYTHING is Grey’s Anatomy meets Sophie Kinsella, an #ownvoices Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine in scrubs and with blood.
I am a physician, and this is my first novel.
First Five Pages
I just want to help people, I just want to help people, I just want to help people, I just want to help people…
I crouch on the floor in an Emergency Room supply closet, wedged in between boxes of adult diapers and urine pregnancy tests. The door swings open, and a nurse pokes her head in.
“Are there any linens left in here?” she asks.
“I’m not sure.” I stare into my lap, letting my hair fall across my face like a curtain. Hopefully she doesn’t notice my puffy eyes.
“Are you the intern that just stuck herself?”
“Yes.” I discreetly wipe my nose with the back of my hand.
“Well, when you’re done doing whatever it is you’re doing, you need to report to Employee Health. They’ll give you antibiotics and test you.” She peers down at me through her tiny bifocals. Her voice sympathetic, she asks, “Have you ever had a needle stick before?”
My chest is so tight I can barely get the word out. “No.”
“Well, I’ve had four in my career, and it’s not that big a deal.”
“Really?” I’m buoyed by a surge of hope. “Did you—”
“Make sure to get yourself together before coming back out here. It’s unprofessional to cry in front of the patients.” She closes the door abruptly.
The auto-sensor light goes off and I am left in pitch darkness.
I just want to help people, I just want to—oh fuck everyone!
I spend probably fifteen minutes sitting in the dark supply closet, too exhausted and depleted to move. I’ve been awake for over twenty-four hours. During that time, I’ve peed twice, eaten once, and asked myself how did it come to this? eighteen times. I thought I’d be good at this. Why am I not good at this? I reach into the pocket of my white coat for my inhaler. From the corner of my eye, I see something tiny and brown scurry across the floor and duck behind a box of gauze pads. I spring to my feet, and my head strikes the shelf above me. Pain sears through the back of my skull. I shriek and, as my hand flies up to my scalp to check for bleeding, I knock over a box, and a million little BandAids come fluttering down all around me like ticker tape. Congratulations! You’re a 26-year-old loser hiding in a closet.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I graduated at the top of my class—Alpha Omega Alpha honor society, in fact—from medical school. I beat out at least a hundred other applicants for a coveted internal medicine residency spot at Philadelphia General Hospital. The Philadelphia General, my first choice. I could have easily gone to the Cleveland Clinic or Mass General or Mayo, but I chose to go where I knew the training was rigorous and unmatched because I knew, without a doubt, that I could handle it, probably with one arm tied behind my back. I can recite the name of every bone, muscle, and nerve in the human body the way other people can recite song lyrics (and, just for reference, there are 206 bones in the human body). I can diagram, from memory, the biochemical pathway by which insulin metabolizes glucose. I can list the top twenty medications for hypertension and the side effects of each, without using a mnemonic device. I’ve studied. My God, have I studied. I’ve studied to the point of self-imposed social isolation and weight gain. To the point of obsession. I’ve prepared for this for years, decades, my whole life. I wrote an essay in third grade entitled, “Why Tendons Are Awesome!” that not only earned me an A, but was prominently displayed for months on the classroom bulletin board. I mean, I was meant for this.
I’ve been an intern for twenty-four hours. That arm that’s tied behind my back? I’m ready to rip it off this instant.
Sighing, I crouch down, pick up all the BandAids, and cram them back into their box. Then I emerge from the closet sheepishly, expecting to find at least one of the several ER nurses waiting for me, ready to comfort me in that stern-but-understanding, maternal way of theirs. The only person at the nurses’ station is a disinterested janitor on his cell phone.
I need baked goods. Stat! I hurry to the hospital cafeteria, eat three and a half powdered doughnuts and find, to my great disappointment, that my mood is only marginally brightened.
I’m sitting at one of a cluster of long tables near a picture window. A curt little sign in a metal stand nearby reads: Reserved for PGH Doctors and Staff. It’s early, a half-moon still visible in the predawn sky, and the only other patron is an elderly man connected to an oxygen tank that he carries in a cloth duffle bag. He shuffles in my direction, notices the sign, then shuffles away. A plastic tray appears across the table from me, and a slender young man with round glasses says, “Hi. I’m Steven Ness, Harvard Med.” He begins to vigorously dissect a grapefruit.
“Yes, I remember. We met at orientation.” Where you introduced yourself as Steven Ness from Harvard Medical School. Twice.
“Being on call is great!” he says without prompting. “I admitted eleven patients, started fourteen IV lines, and still had time to watch a movie. I’m not even tired. I think I’ll go for a run when our shift is over.”
I wonder if it’s possible that I’m so fatigued I’m hallucinating this entire interaction with this gratingly peppy Harry Potter look-alike. “That’s dynamite,” I say.
“I’m so psyched to finally be here. I can’t wait to meet Doctor Portnoy. The man, the legend, am I right?”
“And the Doctor V. Did you hear that we get to work with him? Like actually round with him and everything?” His eyes gleam. “So awesome!”
“It’s pretty awesome.” I manage a thin smile.
“What was your name again?”
“Hey, any relation to Doctor Kapadia, the head of Pediatrics at U Penn? The one that came up with the Kapadia criteria for Kawasaki disease? I mean, I don’t know how common a last name Kapadia is, but—”
I blow a puff of air through my pursed lips. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve answered this question over the years, but it always comes from someone eager to show off that they’re well-versed in rare pediatric disorders. “That’s my father.”
“No way! Is he still practicing?”
“He passed away.” I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear and clear my throat.
Steven shifts in his seat. “Oh, wow. I’m really sorry.”
I nod tersly and shrug. “It’s fine. It was a long time ago.”
“His paper on the diagnosis of Kawasaki is epic. It’s practically Biblical.”
I smile at the compliment.
Having finished dismembering his grapefruit, Steven starts in on an enormous bowl of oatmeal. “He must have been an amazing doctor.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, too.” And I’m sure he never spent a night on call crying in a supply closet. I stare at my plate and, silently, count exactly twenty-three little, sugar-coated doughnut crumbs.
Steven clears his throat. His tone is forcefully bright. “So, how was your night?” he asks.
“I got a needle stick.”
His eyes widen in a way so cartoonish I almost expect a honking sound to accompany his stunned facial expression. “Seriously? Yikes. Did the patient have any … you know … communicable diseases?”
“Oh, boy. Well, the rate of HIV infection from a needle stick is like one in one hundred thousand. I wouldn’t even worry about it. Now, Hep C, that’s the scary one. That’s more like one in forty.”
I jab my index finger at the crumbs. “He had hepatitis C, too.”
He takes this in. “Oh, boy. You were that kid in elementary school that ran with scissors, right?”
A tray slams on to the table, silverware rattling. Clark, an acquaintance of mine from medical school who has the soulful eyes and determined jawline of a young Ernest Hemingway, as well as the tendency to crack each of his ten knuckles one at a time, loudly, during lectures, drops into a chair. Wearing a faded white T-shirt over bloodstained, green scrub pants, he looks as if he’s narrowly survived some sort of natural disaster. Little sections of his black hair project from his head at varying, sharp angles. “Good morning.” His voice is a low growl that reminds me of a lawnmower. “This place should be burned to the ground.”
Steven puts out his hand, grinning. “Whoa! Another rough first night. Hi! I’m Steven Ness, Harvard Med.”
Clark glances at Steven’s hand and takes a slow breath. A vein bulges in his left temple. “Norah,” he says without looking at me. “I’m going to put my head down on the table. I want you to take this fork and jam it into my carotid.”