Dr. Jack Murano, a prominent cardiac surgeon, is approaching his retirement. After spending thirty years in the operating room and handling many high pressures cases, he can’t make the transition to the next stage of his life. Murano realizes that he has no other interests and doesn’t know what to do besides taking care of his patients. All the years of commitment to his hospital work leave him estranged from his family. His children don’t come back after college, his wife finally asks for a separation. Only his dog remains faithful and the only companion. Drinking, carefully hidden during his entire professional life, now becomes a factor and Jack’s professional career ends up in a disaster. Facing the loss of his beloved dog after a car accident, Dr. Murano is brought to the brink. Then a miracle happens, and another, and yet another.
The story is about resurrections and how people, and animals, do help each other in dire circumstances. And about never giving up. Never.
Chapter 1 Excerpt
“You can start warming up.”
Dr. Jack Murano removed ice slush from around the heart. He didn’t even have to turn around and look at his pump technician. Jack’s operating room was kept cold and quiet except for the discrete oscillation of the cardiopulmonary bypass machine.
“Yes sir, here we go,” Ron answered. Jack had worked with Ron for at least twenty years and they knew well each other’s likes and dislikes. They had to. In a time of patient crisis, communication should require only a few words. And Ron knew what to do.
All bypass anastomoses to the patient’s heart were completed. The two proximal to the aorta could be done while they warmed up the patient.
“Can we have closing music?”
The final part of surgery was quite mechanical, so it was routine to play mellow, uplifting songs. Sometimes it was the anesthesiologist’s prerogative to play the music during open heart surgery, but “closing-time” selection belonged to Jack, so most of the time they played songs by Dan Fogelberg. Soon they heard “The Leader of the Band” from behind the anaesthesia screen.
Quiet time in the OR was over and two nurses sitting on their high stools during most of the procedure began talking about their past weekend’s adventures.
Jack’s mind, too, was free to roam.
He always wondered about the relationship between Dan Fogelberg and Dan’s father. Were they close? How close? Did he teach his son to play music? To compose? As a cardiac surgeon, Jack had seen so many doctors in dysfunctional relationships with their children. Family lives were sacrificed to advance doctors’ professional careers. It was so easy to get lost in around-the-clock patient care. Doctors in hospitals were highly respected people, so all the systems were designed to help them deliver the best care to their patients. Teams of nurses and technicians were there to assist them and make their work easier.
After going home, however, wives and kids weren’t so accommodating, and it was doctor’s time to listen, not to be listened to. One incident stuck in Jack’s mind. Saturdaymorning when he was not on call, Diane was out doing chores and he was getting the kids ready for a little party in the neighborhood. Jack didn’t like their choice of clothes and let them know so. They looked at each other. “But that’s the way we dress when mom is with us.” Jack still insisted they change. “We have to check with mom” was their answer before they left to go to their rooms. “Really? my word is not enough?” Jack said, hurt, but he didn’t show it.
A dramatic day in a life of a cardiac surgeon, Dr. Jack Murano. If you want to know what is going on in the operating room after the patient goes to sleep – this story is for you.
In a deep corner of the old drawer, he found a browned shoebox with two rubber bands holding the top down. On its side, the box had a yellowed sticker with ‘BLACK AND WHITE’ written with a broad, dark pencil. The rubber bands seemed aged, partially cracked, but still holding this old box together. He looked at the shoe brand – not something he was familiar with. He was able to remove one of the bands, the other one broke. Inside the box, he found a stack of old photographs. Some were black and white, some in sepia, some on thin paper, some on thicker and a few, looking brown and the oldest, on pieces of a cardboard. He picked a few of them and noticed that they were sturdy enough to be handled. He sifted through the treasure gently, and judging by the clothes, tried to separate the older ones from these, which seemed to be more contemporary. The edges of the newer were straight, the older’s were scalloped and most of them already yellow. All the pictures had people on them and, by the way some of them dressed, he concluded the collection went deep back in the history.
Then he saw this photograph. It was the picture of a young couple. The man was maybe in his late twenties, the woman no more than twenty. Both smiling. Both impeccably dressed. She, in a dark dress with a ruffled collar; he, in a light pinstripe suit with a knit vest. She had a small clutch bag under the arm, he in his hand held dark rimmed, round glasses. Her hair was neatly combed in a bun on the back, he had a dark, probably felt hat on, with the wavy brim down in front and up on the sides. They looked happy and seemingly in love. But this was not what caught his eye. The couple, which seemed to be on top of the world, was pitched against the horrid background. There were ruins everywhere. It was the city in which he grew up and knew very well. The famous monument, visible in the distance, miraculously avoided demolition, as if preserved by the providence during the carnage to remind the people the magnificent times before the cataclysm came. He knew this monument very well. Actually, it was a common location for all the people to meet even now. How could the young couple look so fulfilled amid such a tragedy?
There must be a story behind this picture, he thought.
Well, it was.
The Warsaw uprising was just brutally crushed by ruthless German troops. Staszek, a young Pole, during the afternoon rush hour, is being picked up by Germans in the roundup to be taken away. He doesn’t know if he goes to work on German farm or is being sent to Auschwitz. The former meant a glimmer of hope, the latter sure death. He can’t run away – escapees are shot on spot by Germans. In the last moment, he is able to write a short note to his wife, who with his six months old son is waiting for him at home for dinner, and slip it to the mail drop in the small boutique shop in front of which he was stopped. All prisoners are herded into the cattle cars and have no idea where will they end up. Their uniformed guard looks for a person, who can translate his commands and Staszek volunteers. He took German in law school. They strike a conversation, and, at same point, Staszek finds out the cars are destined for Auschwitz. He knows he faces a certain death and hopes for better future for his wife and particularly for his infant boy.
But lives to tell the story. How did it happen?
After getting the incredible chance to escape from the train a few miles from Auschwitz, Staszek faced another obstacle. The Germans retained his Ausweis. Not having the proper ID could easily get you arrested, to say the least. But he had to get to the little town in outskirts of Warsaw, where his wife with the baby and his mother-in-law ended up living after being mercilessly evicted during the total destruction of the city. After a perilous journey, Staszek gets there and finds his family in a two-story house, together with twenty other colorful people, all survivors of the carnage of Warsaw.
After his miraculous escape from the train on the outskirts of Auschwitz, Staszek finally got home. There he found his family struggling with the reality of the brutal German occupation, but overjoyed to see him. But soon he was confronted with an austere reality of living in the tightly controlled society. He needed an ID, but his documents were taken by the Germans after his roundup in Warsaw. The Ausweiss control was tight and not having it could mean being shot on spot. The family friend had an idea to employ Staszek in an infectious diseases hospital, which was located on the outskirts of Milanowek. The place was designed as a referral center for the patients with typhus, from the soldiers from Eastern front and the prisoners, lucky enough to get away from the concentration camps. At these rough times, by the end of war, typhus was rampant and there was no effective treatment, although the Polish researcher already developed the highly successful vaccine. The Germans, understandably, weren’t eager to cross the gate of the damned hospital.
But then, one day, the group of German soldiers broke with the tradition and showed up in the building. Staszek was there working, and in a hair-raising scene avoided the identification and escaped the deadly situation, again.
The story is about horrors of the war, people helping people and fighting evil with good.
Imagine yourself as a sixteen-year-old girl coming from a small village on the outskirts of Warsaw to the big metropolis. You overflow with hope for a bright future. You are ambitious and determined to make the best out of the young, budding life. The change in living conditions is enormous, but you can handle it. In this big city, the way of dressing is different, but that’s easy to learn. You meet new people, but you are eloquent and have youth on your side. Through the family connections, you get a job. The owner sees your performance and appreciates it with the advance in your position.
But you know that you need education. The school in your little village provided you with just a basic knowledge. Painfully basic. You know you need more and nothing will stop you from achieving this dreamed goal. During this transition, you lost a couple of years, but you know this can be overcome.
You are young and pay more attention to the social life than to the political nightmare brewing. You cannot sense it and, even if you did, you can do nothing about it.
After long preparations, you are elated to start the first class in a new school.
Little do you know, that the monster from the neighboring country decided to start his quest for world dominance precisely on the same day, the day of your first class in a new school. Then it hits you. It’s not only that you will not go to school. You may or may not know, that this moment shuttered the future of your generation. And the generations to come. And not only for your peers. That moment devastated the lives of the people in your country. And in the entire world for that matter. In this moment your generation lost its innocence.