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Publisher's Summary

With poignant insight and humor, Frank Vertosick, Jr., MD, describes some of the greatest challenges of his career, including a six-week-old infant with a tumor in her brain, a young man struck down in his prime by paraplegia, and a minister with a .22-caliber bullet lodged in his skull. Told through intimate portraits of Vertosick's patients and unsparing-yet-fascinatingly detailed descriptions of surgical procedures, When the Air Hits Your Brain - the culmination of decades spent struggling to learn an unforgiving craft - illuminates both the mysteries of the mind and the realities of the operating room.

©2008 Frank T. Vertosick, Jr., MD (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A riveting report that shatters the mystique of the brain surgeon as a wizard of technical prowess." ( Publishers Weekly)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sensitive and Enlightening

I appreciate the respectful and sensitive way the author, a neurosurgeon, talks about the patients who were a big part of his training and practice. I appreciate the enlightening level of detail about the procedures and customs that create doctors, good patient outcomes, and poor patient outcomes. I highly recommend this book.

43 of 43 people found this review helpful

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Finished in 1 and 1/2 days

One of the best medical books written, imho. Empathetic, yet aware of irreconcilable errors. Funny and honest. I'm not sure I would ever want to go to him or someone trained by him in an ethically complex situation, but if my treatment only required skill and someone I could laugh with and relate to before I could be healed, I would go to him without hesitation.

43 of 44 people found this review helpful

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Amazing!

Im an RN and learned so much from this but enjoyed most the victories achieved! I never wanted to put it down!

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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How a neurosurgeon deals with issues of the Brain and Heart

Whether good timing or destiny brought Dr. Vertosick into the field of neurosurgery, this book promises an explanation of the birth and evolution of a doctor who ends up in the right place. If doctors have a "calling" to their profession, it is most certainly demonstrated in this story.

Neurosurgeons may appear to be blunt, unapologetic superheroes (as they are better with matters of the brain, rather than the heart), but these professionals rise to the top of their fields , sparing no emotions, especially their own, to give people everything. Putting excessive emotions in the back seat is a part of caring for the patient who is a less than a millimeter away from death during an operation. Pushing the boundaries of what it is means to be alive, dead and human , they play with the most valuable organ in the human body hoping to preserve and salvage what it means to be human.

This book lifts away the blanket of mysticism that covers these heroic servants to show us that even superman fails, cries, shuts down, and breaks. I enjoyed every part of peeking over the surgeon's shoulder and into his heart.

34 of 36 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely Riveting!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. The author does a great job of not just describing the profession, but also providing perspective and insight to the science of living as well.

What did you like best about this story?

Clearly, the individual cases are fascinating. But, I really enjoyed the author's profound insights on life and death, generally.

Which scene was your favorite?

The "alzheimer's patient" with the massive brain tumor.

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

No. But, it did cause me to think. And, I fear death less now.

Any additional comments?

Buy it. You'll not regret it.

44 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • FB
  • 05-03-17

C fifty-six? Really?!

As a physical therapist, I love a good medical story, and this is an excellent one. When the Air Hits Your Brain is interesting mix of medicine, the people who practice it, and the people they treat.
The narrator does a good job. Except - early in the book he repeatedly narrates, "C fifty-six". How did no one catch this?! There are only seven cervical vertebrae. The author was referencing the disc between the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae. As such, the narrator should have said, "C five-six". A minor quibble, and he only made a few other such errors,but I did find it a bit distracting.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Just a great book :)

Loved it, serious but with nice humor. Narrator is really good. The best I heard so far.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Awesome story about a budding neurosurgeon

A very compelling account of the arduous life of a neurosurgical resident in training, which abounds with many poignant and touching scenes, with enough technical details that satisfies the curiosity of what they do in the OR and in the hospital.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Joining the Ranks...

of Oliver Sacks and Richard Selzer, Vertosick renders a compelling account not only of neurology and its procedures, but also of what it is like to be a doctor in the most complicated and challenging branch of medicine. A must read.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

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About medical ethics

This book can be used to discuss medical ethics, although the chapters are about neurosurgery.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Santiago
  • 11-22-16

Good book

A collection of neurosurgery anecdotes during the author's residency programme. Well written, presents important ethical and professional challenges.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sally-Ann Barrington
  • 07-02-18

Fabulous intriguing listen

Such a great audio book, so engaging and interesting to hear. The M.D. makes for a really good voice and such detail!

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  • M. S.
  • 03-31-18

Interesting tales with odd language

Would you try another book written by Frank T Vertosick Jr. MD or narrated by Kirby Heyborne?

I wouldn't mind another book narrated by Kirby Heyborne, but Dr. Verlosick's humour and story telling was not my favourite.

If you’ve listened to books by Frank T Vertosick Jr. MD before, how does this one compare?

This was my first one.

What about Kirby Heyborne’s performance did you like?

It was steady and clear despite the complexity of many of the words and the subject matter.

Could you see When the Air Hits Your Brain being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

I would doubt it. It can't really decide what it is: Best I can gather, it's a collection of the most traumatic cases which left the biggest impression on the author. May be "The growth of a neurosurgeon" would have been a better title. On TV it would boil down to Scrubs with no humour, less drama, more swearing and substantially more death.

Any additional comments?

For some reason the combination of high brow medical lingo and constant swearing really jaded me. It made both seem completely inappropriate. However the biggest problem this book had was a lack of purpose and direction. It didn't seem intent on teaching the reader about neuroscience, it didn't want to show the realities of the profession as it skipped over all descriptions of normal every day happenings, it didn't entertain the reader, it didn't do anything really. The stories still seemed interesting, but the resulting lack of cohesion really brought the book down.

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  • James
  • 06-20-18

outstanding!

outstanding! a realistic window into the life of a health care worker. A must read for any aspiring dr. nurse or carer.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-21-18

must listen!

loved every minute! some times sad and thoughtful, other times funny. very interesting book! awesome career

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  • Paul
  • 04-17-18

A compelling view into the neurosurgeon's world.

Would you consider the audio edition of When the Air Hits Your Brain to be better than the print version?

I haven not read the printed edition.

What was one of the most memorable moments of When the Air Hits Your Brain?

To get a glimpse into the moral, ethical and emotional struggles the author faces in his moments of failure gives one an insight into what attributes a really good practitioner must possess. It’s not his dexterity of hand, his brilliance in diagnosis or his recall of medical learning or case lore, but rather, his contrapuntal ability to care without caring too much.

What does Kirby Heyborne bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

I have not read the printed edition. However, Mr Heyborne reads the book with sensitivity and an obvious understanding of the underlying material (not the technical stuff - I mean the author's feelings). I only have one slight reservation about the reading - the attempt at performing various accents. I think if one cannot nail a New York or posh English accent, it’s probably better to leave it to the hearer’s imagination (as it is when one reads a book).

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

In the instances where the outcome is unfavourable, the stories evoke a visceral response which flows in two tributaries from each case narrative: one is the empathy one feels for the doctor with his internal struggles, and the other for the suffering and heartache the patients and their loved ones must endure. Where the outcome is positive, especially when it’s unexpectedly so, it’s hard not to feel a kind on vicarious triumph in the doctor’s achievements.

Any additional comments?

The story is really well paced and has a careful balance between the details of each case and the doctor's travails in learning. I really enjoyed his ontological musings and hearing of the agony one in his profession that surely cannot be avoided.

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  • Jennifer2
  • 04-16-18

returning

There is no need to mix medical information with very rough swearing and cursing. Disgusting, and that's already in the beginning.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful