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Publisher's Summary

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. If America could send a man to the moon, shouldn’t the best surgeons in the world be able to build an artificial heart? In TickerTexas Monthly executive editor and two-time National Magazine Award winner Mimi Swartz shows just how complex and difficult it can be to replicate one of nature’s greatest creations. 

Part investigative journalism, part medical mystery, Ticker is a dazzling story of modern innovation, recounting 50 years of false starts, abysmal failures, and miraculous triumphs, as experienced by one the world’s foremost heart surgeons, O.H. “Bud” Frazier, who has given his life to saving the un-savable.    

His journey takes him from a small town in west Texas to one of the country’s most prestigious medical institutions, The Texas Heart Institute, from the halls of Congress to the animal laboratories where calves are fitted with new heart designs. The roadblocks to success - medical setbacks, technological shortcomings, government regulations - are immense. Still, Bud and his associates persist, finding inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. A field beside the Nile irrigated by an Archimedes screw. A hardware store in Brisbane, Australia. A seedy bar on the wrong side of Houston.  

Until post WWII, heart surgery did not exist. Ticker provides a riveting history of the pioneers who gave their all to the courageous process of cutting into the only organ humans cannot live without. Heart surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley, whose feud dominated the dramatic beginnings of heart surgery. Christian Barnaard, who changed the world overnight by performing the first heart transplant. Inventor Robert Jarvik, whose artificial heart made patient Barney Clark a worldwide symbol of both the brilliant promise of technology and the devastating evils of experimentation run amuck.  

Rich in supporting players, Ticker introduces us to Bud’s brilliant colleagues in his quixotic quest to develop an artificial heart: Billy Cohn, the heart surgeon and inventor who devotes his spare time to the pursuit of magic and music; Daniel Timms, the Brisbane biomedical engineer whose design of a lightweight, pulseless heart with but a single moving part offers a new way forward.  And, as government money dries up, the unlikeliest of backers, Houston’s furniture king, Mattress Mack.    

In a sweeping narrative of one man’s obsession, Swartz raises some of the hardest questions of the human condition. What are the tradeoffs of medical progress? What is the cost, in suffering and resources, of offering patients a few more months, or years of life? Must science do harm to do good? Ticker takes us on an unforgettable journey into the power and mystery of the human heart.

©2018 Mimi Swartz (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"In bringing to life more than 70 years of medical history, Swartz often achieves a novelist's level of telling detail, the kind that can only result from determined, painstaking reporting... Ticker makes achieving a truly viable version [of an artificial heart]...seem not just possible, but inevitable." (The Texas Observer)

"A riveting medical thriller... Told in an appropriately over-the-top style, this is a quintessentially Texas story: sprawling, unpredictable, and teeming with risk and opportunity." (Publishers Weekly)

"Even casually interested readers will become fascinated by Swartz's vivid depiction of Frazier at work in the operating room...Swartz is a witty, savvy, seasoned journalist, and she offers a welcome history of significant medical advances." (Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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People Magazine Version of Medical history

There is very little discussion of the artificial hearts themselves, but a lot of discussion about the personalities of the men who made them. There is no attempt to look at the development of the artificial heart outside of the Texas Heart Institute.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Didn’t hate it, didn’t like it.

Overall this audio book is just OK. I gleaned some interesting info re the history of the effort to create a practical version of an artificial heart. I wasn’t pleased that said info was dumbed down for public consumption. Nor did I care for the author’s reliance on cheesy similes and metaphors. Worse were the comments made re various physycians’ and other characters’ sex appeal, which might be relevant in a gossip column but didn’t seem appropriate in this context. Last but not least was the narrator, whose smooth style is better suited to sleep aide commercials and not so much to a book on a fascinating, serious medical device.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Keren
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 08-13-18

Wow!!

I don’t usually write reviews, but this is simply the best audiobook I’ve listened to in a very long time. Usually a fiction reader/ listener, I thought I would give this book a try based on reviews and I’m so glad I did. Fascinating, well narrated and written in a great story telling manner.
I’ll admit that what drew me to this is the fact that I work in surgery and find these topics interesting and engaging, but I honestly believe anyone would find this book a great listen. Who among us has not been touched by heart disease in some way? 5 stars all around.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating Behind the Curtain Look at Heart Surgery

This book came out too early! So much going on at St Lukes. This book should not have been released. A scandal and major reputations are at stake.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A Chatty Tale of Medical History

The author sets forth some interesting ideas as to what have been the developments with regard to heart replacement via transplant or mechanical heart. However, the book suffers from poor editing and a too careless style. Sounds like it was cut and pasted from a series of articles that appeared elsewhere.

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Love!

I works never have chosen this type of book to read or listen to on my own, however since I share my sisters account and have to listen to what she downloads, I was given no choice. This book is FANTASTIC! Fascinating, well written, well presented, very well arranged I recommend it!

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  • Sherry
  • Londonderry, NH, United States
  • 10-10-18

Not what I expected.

I was interested in the creation of the artificial heart. That is not what this book is about. After an hour and a half when I gave up, all I heard was description after description after description of the "colorful" Texas doctors involved. Dull and tiresome.

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Great history and nice to be updated on what is on the horizon.

I’m a father of six children. 4 of them born with congenital heart defects. This was excellent reporting of who and where technologies came from as well as the process that they have to go through. It was also very reassuring to see what is on the horizon as it takes a long time for things to get approval from FDA.