You are currently viewing WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR                                                      BY PAUL KALINITHI (Guest Review)


Even if you are the best knight, wearing the best armour, who won a thousand battles and hardly faced any defeat, you will always be fragile in front of Death.
You can fight but that will only give rise to excruciating pain and then putting your arms down, and sitting on one knee you will surrender yourself to it. Death is the only thing that gives life its meaning.
‘When Breath Becomes Air’ is the life story of Paul Kalinithi decribing his painful journey from being one of the finest resident neurosurgeon to being a victim of lung cancer.
The story is divided into two parts. In the first part(happy part) we see how Paul goes from being a student of literature, then develops an interest in medical science to successfully become a resident neurosurgeon at Stanford University. The vivid accounts of many cases are given which clearly shows how empathetically he wanted to connect with his patients.
He spent a considerable amount of time in the OR (Operating Room) operating on the brain of his patient removing tumors and became proficient in it. He was not one of those doctors who remain unaffected by their patient’s condition.He got married to his wife Lucy. Lucy was a resident internist at Stanford university
In the second half(sad part) of the story, Paul is diagnosed with lung cancer. Both Paul and Lucy get very much depressed over this fact. Their relationship was only twelve years old and they didn’t experience parenthood till then.
Paul knew parenthood was the only thing that could distract them from this situation. Meanwhile routine checkups of Paul began. There came a time when it all stopped and the health of Paul started recovering. Once again he was in the OR doing operation on his patient. Everything started to be fine only to deteriorate sooner.
Paul started growing weak day by day and this time there was no sign of recovery.
Lucy gave birth to Elizabeth (Cady). Paul grew frail by then but became very happy seeing his daughter. Sadly, within eight months of her birth, Paul died; leaving his wife and daughter behind.
Well, in this story, a lot of medical terms are used but they do not at all lower the weightiness of the story. It’s a disheartening but amazing story; especially the second part where a lot of wonderful sentences are used.
My favourite quote is from Paul to his daughter, “That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing”.

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