Fragile Lives by Stephen Westaby


*Many thanks to the lovely folks at Harper Collins Non-Fiction for my review copy*

About the book:

An incredible memoir from one of the world’s most eminent heart surgeons and some of the most remarkable and poignant cases he’s worked on.

Grim Reaper sits on the heart surgeon’s shoulder. A slip of the hand and life ebbs away.

The balance between life and death is so delicate, and the heart surgeon walks that rope between the two. In the operating room there is no time for doubt. It is flesh, blood, rib-retractors and pumping the vital organ with your bare hand to squeeze the life back into it. An off-day can have dire consequences – this job has a steep learning curve, and the cost is measured in human life. Cardiac surgery is not for the faint of heart.

Professor Stephen Westaby took chances and pushed the boundaries of heart surgery. He saved hundreds of lives over the course of a thirty-five year career and now, in his astounding memoir, Westaby details some of his most remarkable and poignant cases – such as the baby who had suffered multiple heart attacks by six months old, a woman who lived the nightmare of locked-in syndrome, and a man whose life was powered by a battery for eight years.

A powerful, important and incredibly moving book, Fragile Lives offers an exceptional insight into the exhilarating and sometimes tragic world of heart surgery, and how it feels to hold someone’s life in your hands.

Fragile Lives is out Feb 9th and you can get your copy by clicking HERE.

My thoughts:

Anyone who reads my blog will know that I rarely, if ever, review non-fiction. It is definitely not my usual genre, but when I saw it pop up on Twitter recently, I was suitably intrigued. I am so SO GLAD I got the chance to read and review Fragile Lives.

Fragile Lives is a memoir written by Stephen Westaby, one of the most well known cardiac surgeons and hugely prolific in his chosen field. A trailblazer from very early on in his career, he continued to pave the way for the use of new and unknown cardiac treatments and apparatus.

I started it Monday morning, and by Monday night I was a ball of emotions upon finishing it. Every chapter is a case story, and every case is heartbreaking yet life-affirming, if that makes sense. I found myself close to tears on more than one occasion on Monday, knowing that these are real people and they were meeting Westaby at possibly the worst moment of their lives.

The details in Fragile Lives are extremely in depth, especially with regards to the surgeries and various diseases/injuries that are discussed in the book. While it was descriptive, it was not by any means difficult to follow. It was very interesting to read about the anatomy of the heart and the various pathologies Westaby writes about.

I can’t do this book justice with my words. It was truly excellent to read. I was compelled to read it, trapped in the intensity of the chapters. When I had to put it down, I immediately wished I was reading it again. That is always a sign of a great book. If you like medicine, with a large dose of humanity, then pick up Fragile Lives.

Highly recommended!

5 thoughts on “Fragile Lives by Stephen Westaby

  1. I never read anything but he saved my girlfriends life.She had a burst aorta and we even had the hospital chaplain out to give her a final blessing. He is the best in the business.

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