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Open Heart: Book summary and reviews of Open Heart by Stephen Westaby

Open Heart

A Cardiac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table

by Stephen Westaby

Open Heart by Stephen Westaby X
Open Heart by Stephen Westaby
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2017
    304 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

One of the world's leading heart surgeons shares the hard-won lessons of a life lived where failure and death are just a heartbeat away.

When Stephen Westaby witnessed a patient die on the table during an open heart surgery for the first time, he was struck by the quiet, determined way the surgeons walked away. As he soon understood, this detachment was a crucial survival strategy. In a profession where failure is literally a heartbeat away and the cost of that failure is death, how else could he live with the consequences of his performance? In Open Heart, Westaby reflects on over 11,000 surgeries, showing us why the procedures have never become routine and will never be. With astonishing compassion and candor, Dr. Westaby recounts the fraught and alarming stories from his operating room: we meet a pulseless man who lives with an electric heart pump, an expecting mother who refuses surgery unless the doctors let her pregnancy reach full term, and a baby who gets a transplanted heart - only to die once it's in place.

For readers of Atul Gawande and of Henry Marsh's Do No Harm, Open Heart offers unforgettable insight into how to push back death, until nothing is left to do but to accept it.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Not without some gore but required reading for medical students and hospital-show junkies but also for anyone curious to learn about hearts and the heroic measures to save them." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. Pioneering English heart surgeon Westaby champions the extraordinary accomplishments of artificial heart technology in his dazzling memoir." - Publishers Weekly

"A cracking example of a thriving sub-genre of autobiography, the medical memoir ... each story is gripping, written in a vivid, almost brutal way that matches the blood and gore of cardiac surgery." - Financial Times

"[Westaby's] writing is bluff, workmanlike and thrilling ... a frank and absorbing memoir by a man who has done about as much direct good to his fellow human beings as it is possible to do in one lifetime." - The Times (UK), Book of the Week

"The stakes could not be higher in this bloody, muscular and adrenaline-charged memoir from a pioneering heart surgeon ... at points it made my own heart race dangerously." - Sunday Times (UK)

"At the cutting-edge of scalpel-lit ... I love getting a window into this world ... I enjoyed so much in this book - the anatomy lesson, the vivid descriptions, the fervour Westaby feels for his work." - Evening Standard (UK)

"Profoundly powerful." - Literary Review (UK)

"Westaby is everything you would hope from a maverick surgical genius: authoritative, engaged, passionate and opinionated. His book, annoyingly well written for someone who has penned only medical papers and handbooks, reads like a thriller, except with rather more corpses." - The Times (UK)

"A full-frontal and thrilling portrayal. Each story in this fascinating book brings a new nail-biting surgical adventure ... A gifted surgeon, Westaby is also a natural writer... [Open Heart] succeeds on many levels: political battle cry, chronicle of bloody feats, history of modern cardiology, tribute to patients and paean to surgery." - Daily Telegraph (UK)

"Remarkable." - Daily Mirror (UK)

"Powerful... [this book] is not for the faint-hearted; breast bones are sawn apart, body fluids gush, but empathy isn't absent." - Observer (UK)

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Author Information

Stephen Westaby

Stephen Westaby is a pioneer in artificial heart technology and serves as Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. He lives in Oxford, UK.

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