The Big House: Toronto General Hospital from 1972 to 1984
by Hugh Cameron and Edna Quammie

"But this was Toronto in the ‘70s, bursting with life and full of immigrants who had just escaped from the dead hand of socialism."

Reading this is like settling down for a leisurely conversation with old friends—if they happen to be an internationally recognized orthopedic surgeon and a superior orthopedic nurse who have rubbed shoulders with luminaries in the orthopedic world. No dry tribute to bones and scalpels, the writing sparkles with charming digressions, amusing stories, personal asides, gentle rants, self-deprecating wit, and helpings of poetry—all anchored by the fascinating history of orthopedic surgery, especially as lived in the glory days of Toronto General Hospital (TGH).

Cameron and Quammie collaborated at TGH during a time of remarkable medical innovation, including the invention of arthroscopy, screws that don't rust in the body, cardiac pacemakers, artificial kidneys, and groundbreaking knee, hip, and spine implants. Cameron knew most of the inventors and shares their successes and quirks. Medical concepts are simplified: a meniscus is an "oiling pad for the knee"; a fused spine is "a long bony deformed tube"; and a screw in a poor-quality bone fastens "a wish to a moonbeam."

A serious yet humorous perspective coats the prose as Cameron tackles the impact of inclusion and equity ("the dreaded buzzwords of the collective"), political correctness ("we are all personally responsible for the gulags"), food Nazis, insularity in universities, and assorted small annoyances. But the breezy digressions—delightful, priceless, and somehow sensible—shine. A personal anecdote about the cardiac pacemaker's inventor morphs into a tale of vacation cottages, ice skating, chicken wings, and Polish history before settling on shoulders. Advances in arthroscopy become an essay on acupuncture, evangelism, hypnosis, and LSD and then connect to elbow and ankle joints. Cameron and Quammie offer personal, professional, and rare glimpses into the golden age of orthopedic surgery with an intelligent perspective that has one nodding in agreement, gasping in awe, and rolling wryly in the aisles.

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