The Knife's Edge: The Heart and Mind of a Cardiac Surgeon (Hardback)Stephen Westaby (author)
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Stephen Westaby’s earlier Fragile Lives opened a door to a singular life - a pioneering heart surgeon who began his days on a council estate with precious few prospects. The Knife’s Edge takes us to the paradox at the centre of his practice, the balance of salvation and risk, told with all the anecdotal fireworks that made the original so compelling.
An intimate and compelling exploration into the unique psyche of the heart surgeon, by one of the profession's most eminent figures.
Although Professor Stephen Westaby was born with the necessary coordination and manual dexterity, it was a head trauma sustained during university that gifted him the qualities of an exceptional heart surgeon: qualities that are frequently associated with psychopathy. His thirty-five-year career has been characterised by fearlessness and ruthless ambition; leaving empathy at the hospital door as thousands of patients put their lives in his hands.
For heart surgeons, the inevitable cost of failure is death and in The Knife's Edge, Westaby reflects on the unique mindset of those who are drawn to this exhilarating and often tragic profession. We discover the pioneers who grasped opportunities and took chances to drive innovation and save lives. Often difficult, uninhibited and fearless, theirs is a field constantly threatened by the risk of public failure.
Like those before him, Westaby refuses to draw the line in his search of a lifetime solution to problems of the heart. His determination is unerring - a steadfastness underpinned by his unusual mind. But as we glimpse into the future of cardiac surgery, for all its remarkable scientific advancement, one question remains: within the confines of socialised medical healthcare systems, how can heart surgeons - individuals often hardwired with avoidance of self-doubt, a penchant for glory and a flagrant disregard for authority - truly flourish?
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 440 g
Dimensions: 222 x 141 x 32 mm
Praise for Fragile Lives:
'Raw and moving... the writing is thrilling. Fragile Lives is a frank and absorbing memoir by a man who has done about as much good to his fellow human beings as it is possible to do in one lifetime.' - The Times, Book of the Week
'With his battle cry of "bugger protocol" and his renaming of medical directors as "the Stasi", Westaby comes across as the bloke you'd want on your side in the fight to stay alive.' - The Guardian, Guardian Books of the Year
'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. 'Surgeons are meant to be objective,' Westaby tells himself, `not human'. What makes this book so fascinating, and so moving, is the terrible tension between these necessary qualities.' - The Sunday Times
'A full-frontal and thrilling portrayal. Each story in this fascinating book brings a new nail-biting surgical adventure... A gifted surgeon, Westaby is also a natural writer... Fragile Lives succeeds on many levels: political battle cry, chronicle of bloody feats, history of modern cardiology, tribute to patients and paean to surgery.' - The Daily Telegraph
'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. You race to each chapter's end to see if his certain-to-die patient survives.' - The Times
'The book is 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 Fragile Lives, too. Each story is gripping, written in a vivid, almost brutal way that matches the blood and gore of cardiac surgery.' - Financial Times
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