I have a confession to make. Sometimes little pieces of me make their way into my books. Not my big dark secrets (which aren’t very big or very dark—I lead a surprisingly boring life), but the medical issues my family and I have dealt with over the years. After all, I write Medicals, I have to get my material from somewhere. Sorry family…your injuries will become fodder for my books.
What kinds of things make the cut? Let me count the ways and the books:
- Doctor’s Guide to Dating in the Jungle: While taking barrel racing lessons in
Brazil, my horse went into a jarring trot unexpectedly, and I felt a shooting pain in my back. Thinking I’d pulled a muscle, I put heat on the area and kept going back week after week only to have the pain get progressively worse whenever my horse did more than a slow walk. Trotting or loping literally took my breath away. I finally went to the doctor. The verdict? Compression fractures of my 6th and 9th thoracic vertebrae. From a simple trot, of all things, not even a fall. My doctor shook his head and sent me off for a bone scan. You probably guessed it. I was diagnosed with borderline osteoporosis (osteopenia), even though I’d just turned forty. Once I healed, I did go back to barrel racing without any problems. How did this get into my book? My heroine treats a woman with this exact injury. In my book, the patient switched equine disciplines and started doing Western Pleasure riding instead, which is easier on the bones.
- The Lone Wolf’s Craving: After I was diagnosed, I was advised to take bone building drugs in the form of a once-a-month pill or a yearly shot. My family knows that I’m wary of taking medicines unless I’ve really researched them. The alternative was to add calcium and vitamin D to my diet and incorporate strength training. I’d read that percussive exercise (although it seems counterintuitive) helps builds bone by forcing the body to adjust to the demands placed on it. The reason that simple trot injured my back was because I’d led a sedentary life for several years prior—very bad for the bones. I used to run as a teenager, so I slowly got back into the routine using Couch-to-5K. Now I’m up to three miles several times a week. In my book, my heroine is an avid runner—although she runs for the joy of it.
- The Man Who Wouldn’t Marry: Hubby is a big do-it-yourselfer, for which I’m grateful. I’ve reaped many benefits from his talents. But he’s had his share of mishaps, including stepping through a glass coffee table and then falling on a piece of the glass. The result was a deep gash on the inside of his arm near the elbow. He wanted me to just slap a butterfly bandage on it. The kids and I begged, threatened, and I finally resorted to crying to get him to agree to go to the emergency room. It looked that bad, and I’m not a squeamish person. Brazil uses a triage-style system to evaluate patients. You see a preliminary nurse who assigns you a colored identification bracelet. The color basically determines how long you wait. No cute, colored bracelet for hubby, however. He was whisked through a back door into an exam room, and a doctor came right in. Why? Because the area he cut evidently has an abundance of nerves and tendons running through it. Cutting the wrong thing could result in a loss of function in parts of his hand. “Wifey was right,” said the mean old doctor. So as hubby hung his head, the doctor tested motion and sensation in various parts of his hand and arm and then stitched him up. I have a similar injury in my book—the doctor steps through a glass table while hanging a light fixture and…voila, cuts his arm. Which, of course the heroine (who’s also a doctor) has to treat in her own…er…special way.
I could go on and on and bore you with all of our medical history, but I’ll stop and let you guess which events are real and which ones are made up. Hint: there’s a touch of reality in almost every one of my books. Including my March duet featuring Brazilian brothers.
How about you? Do you ever wonder if scenes in books are taken from the authors’ personal files? And writers, do you inject a bit of yourselves into your books? If so, can you give us a hint? Inquiring minds want to know!