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.