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Publisher's Summary

In gripping prose, one of the world's leading cardiac surgeons lays bare both the wonder and the horror of a life spent a heartbeat away from death.

When Stephen Westaby witnessed a patient die on the table during 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 is a crucial survival strategy in a profession where death is only a heartbeat away. 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, he recounts harrowing and sometimes hopeful 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 heart transplant - only to die once it's in place. For fans of Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and of Henry Marsh's Do No Harm, Open Heart offers a soul-baring account of a life spent in constant confrontation with death.

©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)

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What listeners say about Open Heart

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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!

2 people found this 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 person found this helpful

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Top tier medical memoir

Loved that this memoir is mostly focused on the medicine rather than the drama of the writers life. It is a deep dive into the most amazing medical stories from a renowned heart surgeon who was a pioneer in the field. 10/10 recommend reading if you are at all interested in medicine, cardio, surgery, or just a good story about a guy who saves countless lives with his drive to innovate the field.

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Great Listen

This book starts a little slow but ramps up to a point where you won't want to stop listening for the night. Very good mix of entertainment and science. Great medical read.

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Riviting masterful storytelling

Dr. Westaby is as masterful at storytelling as he is at heart surgery. Riviting to the end. Loved it. Couldn't agree more with his conclusions about modern medicine. Great read and motivating to the profession. Thank you Dr. Westaby for sharing your lifes journey as a cardiac sugeon. Couldn't put the book down, loved all the personal touches of patients lives and struggles. A must read for anyone, soul searching.

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Thrilling, action packed, heartwarming

I enjoyed it so much I could start listening all over again from the beginning.

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Spectacular!

As a retiree from some forty years in medical care, most in ICU’s and the last twelve years in cardiac ICU’s, this was just the perfect book for me!
As the narrator was detailing certain procedures, I’d start to wonder about some item or small detail, and BAM! The answer would be there for me!
I thoroughly enjoyed this.... now, I have to find out what else Mr Westaby May have written. ( In England, surgeons are not called doctors, they are called, Mister.
The different pronunciation of some of our anatomical parts and procedures was interesting. The narrator was great, and kept the spirit of the stories clipping along.
Oh, my! I miss my work so badly!

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Surgeons are no better than Flytiers

It was OK, but still gave it three five star medals, and you might ask Why?
It held my interest because this particular heart surgeon was like no other I have read about, as I believe he believed in God and the randomness of life itself.

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Candid and informative memoir well told

Dr. Westaby was a pioneer in cardiac surgery and has written a memoir is both interesting and informative. He's not shy about touting his victories and voicing strong opinions about Great Britain's National Health Service. He's also remarkably candid in recalling his defeats. His genuine liking and concern for his patients is evident throughout the book, and the narrator does an excellent job letting the author's personality shine through.

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Amazing

I loved it! It was funny at parts and always kept yiur interest. The narrator fits perfectly.