'NY Med' premiere review: Doctors and nurses with saint-like patience and skill for impossible patients

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Image Credit: Donna Svennevik/ABC

If you’ve seen any of the other ABC medical documentaries overseen by producer Terence Wrong (Boston Med in 2010; Hopkins in 2008), you know that NY Med is excellent summer viewing… as long as you don’t mind spurting blood and close-ups of tumors along with your true tales of heroic life-saving and saint-like patience with impossible patients.

I gulped down five episodes of NY Med in pretty much one sitting — I just had to keep going, to see what the surgeons and nurses at New York Presbyterian hospital were going to confront next. I’m not going to criticize the series for devoting too much camera-time on the Tuesday-night premiere to Dr. Oz, the smooth-talking TV star who’s also a heart surgeon at the hospital. I recognize that it’s tough to lure viewers to watch a documentary — hell, a documentary that premiered opposite the All-Star Game and a new episode of that classic drama Franklin & Bash — and if the wizardly charms of Oz attract some eyeballs that might not otherwise meet the other heroes of this series, his presence is okay with me; besides, after tonight’s opening hour, he recedes into the background.

The evening’s most dramatic case, that of a woman with a brain tumor who needed to have “wide awake” neurosurgery so that she could talk to doctors during her procedure and thus enable the doctors to know whether they were damaging any important areas of her brain. But like any other profession, all was not life-or-death seriousness. Producer Wrong nodded to this in the opening moments, when an emergency-room patient appeared with a painful, half-day-long erection from taking recreational gobs of Cialis. Party over: His penis had to be drained, to a mixture of professional care and human drollery from the nurses in charge of this fellow.

Indeed, the nurses provide a certain reality-TV element to NY Med, and I don’t intend that phrase as an insult. This week, and in the weeks to come, we’ll meet nurses such as Marina Dedivanovic and Katie Duke, who at once embody and contradict pop-culture cliches about nurses. Yes, they’re attractive, and yes, patients flirt with them. (Really, it’s rather amazing and impressive, the horn-dog quality in men — I’m using the clinical term, of course — that they’ll try to make time with a nurse even when in great pain, prone on a stretcher and in the presence of cameras.)

There are a lot of future tears to be shed. There’s a guy who comes into the ER having put away an unappetizing meal of nuts — not the cashew or almond kind, the metal kind, along with bolts and paper-clips. There’s a middle-aged surgeon who thinks younger colleagues tend to be lazy and lack initiative who could be dismissed as a crank until we see him have to put up with a lackadaisical and ill-informed rookie who only proves the older doc’s point.

I also saw enough dumb, ill-mannered, arrogant, or baffling behavior by both patients and their families that left me with more admiration for doctors and nurses than ever.

There is, in short, one surprise after another on NY Med, and you shouldn’t miss any of them.

Did you watch NY Med?

Twitter: @kentucker

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