In his memoir, Eoin O’Brien, an Irish cardiologist and clinical scientist of international repute, recounts his life in medicine and his friendships with doctors, scientists, writers and painters.
Beginning with his upbringing in a medical family in impoverished post-war Dublin he recounts his Catholic education at St Conleth’s School and Castleknock College. In his training in medicine in Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons and its teaching hospitals, the Richmond and the Rotunda, he evokes personal vignettes of his teachers and colleagues during the nineteen fifties.
Moving to England, where he specialized in cardiology, he charts the exciting development of this discipline from the unique perspective of a front-line doctor. He writes of the personal sensitivities of doctors and nurses who participated in an era of achievement that saw the establishment of coronary care units and the introduction of new drugs and devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators that would reduce the then immense mortality of heart attack.
Returning to Dublin, O’Brien describes the practice of medicine in the hospitals of the city, and particularly in The Charitable Infirmary on Jervis Street, as he and his colleagues established a research unit that gained worldwide recognition for the treatment of high blood pressure. As a medical historian, he recorded the history of Dublin’s voluntary hospitals, which were being closed to usher in a new era of hospital care.
O’Brien’s love of literature and the arts brought him into close contact with some remarkable writers and artists, among them Samuel Beckett, Edith Fournier, Nevill Johnson, Con Leventhal, Brian O’Doherty and Niall Sheridan. His writing yields glimpses into the lives of these individuals, and his reminiscences of his friendship with Samuel Beckett movingly casts new light on the warmth and personality of the Nobel Prize-winner.