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Open Heart

A Cardiac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table
Narrated by: Gordon Griffin
Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
5 out of 5 stars (72 ratings)

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Publisher's 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. Open Heart offers unforgettable insight into how to push back death until nothing is left to do but to accept it.

©2017 Steve Westaby (P)2017 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"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 cracking example of a thriving sub-genre of autobiography, the medical memoir. Anyone who enjoyed the 2014 bestseller Do No Harm by the brain surgeon Henry Marsh, a friend of Westaby's, will relish [this book], too.... Each story is gripping, written in a vivid, almost brutal way that matches the blood and gore of cardiac surgery." ( Financial Times )
"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)

What members say

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  • Overall
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Fascinating!

Dr. Westaby shares a fascinating story about his career progression and the challenging heart surgeries he has performed over nearly 40 years. I found myself drawn into his narration of each memorable case he details. He goes to great lengths to personalize the intriguing medical stories. I had a hard time stopping the book to take breaks or resume my daily duties. This book makes me respect the medical profession even more. Dr. Westaby thank you for your many years of dedicated service!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Science or luck?

What made the experience of listening to Open Heart the most enjoyable?

All the struggles that Dr. Westaby had to overcome, not just the operation, medical side, but also the emotional side.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Dr. Westaby himself of course, because of his unerring determination to find either a solution or try as best as possible.

Which character – as performed by Gordon Griffin – was your favorite?

This is a strange question because it's not a book of fiction where the narrator plays many characters simultaneously but a biography or choice diaries type.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

At the beginning of the book, about the story of how Dr. Westaby was inspired to become a surgeon was very touching, while the interviews he went through to get to medical sort certainly earned a good chuckle at the very least.

Any additional comments?

After listening to this book, it made me concerned about how medical practices are still so heavily dependent on a doctor's experience, epiphany and luck rather than exacting scientific methods sometimes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A detailed look at cardiac surgery in the UK

I loved this book more than most medical memoirs because as Westerby put it "we it for the patients". Each chapter is about a memorable case. Not all the patients survived, but Westerby and his team learned something so they could do better next time. I remember Julie and Julia, Stephan, Peter and Jim. He replaced an aortic valve in a pregnant woman and saved both mum and baby. Other doctors advised an abortion.

Westerby operated in Oxford, in my mind the best the UK could offer. Not true. Westerby worked with one hand behind his back harassed by breaucrats who stifled innovation and creativity. That was the sad part. Socialized medicine denied heart transplants to those who needed one. When Westerby wanted to use mechanical assistance, he had to foot the bill out of his research funds or from charitable donations. I hope the US NEVER goes that route, but sadly we're halfway there.

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Fantastic

Couldn't put it down. This is a fascinating story of a remarkable man and his quest to prevent useless death from treatable disease.

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Amazing

I found this book by chance anf loved every bit of it. I recommend it

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Great Story To a Surgeon's life

This book serves as a great story and inside into how Surgery has developed through the years and tells and great story about a surgeon who has gone thru much death and miracle surgeries.

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Remarkable

A truly remarkable story of a pioneering surgeon who took action when others would not.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful