In front of me, however, the weather foreshadowed colder things to come. And this morning we saw the weather kept its promise.
Those of you in the north probably regard the above scene as a pleasant early spring day, but two inches of snow were enough to shut down East Texas. I had planned to go to the University today and pick up music, but schools at every level are closed. And yes, I've already seen cars towed and near the high school a truck knocked over a lamp post. We are so defenseless against inclement weather.
Ah, well. Enjoy Symphony no. 2 by Alexander Von Zimmlensky while you read my post.
Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table by Stephen Westaby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Open Heart reads like a fast-paced action adventure movie. Westaby takes us on a brief biographical journey as to how he became interested in heart surgery, his training and then torpedoes straight into different life or death situations which require delicate procedures, his abilities and steely confidence.
We meet a young girl with a genetic heart defect, an old man with congestive heart failure, a pregnant woman who needs surgery but refuses to terminate the life of her unborn baby as well as others. One of the most poignent was his time in Saudi Arabia when he worked on the tiny heart of an infant of a Somalian woman who had been kidnapped and forced into slavery. She had escaped and crossed the desert to save her son. The story is as heart rending as it is amazing because Westaby takes out the baby's heart and puts it back in after mending it.
Here we encounter Westaby's frustration with England's National Health Care system.
"...I had just been appointed in Oxford. So why was I in the desert? Heart operations cost money...the annual budget was gone in five months. So the management closed us down..."
This is a recurring theme in the book. Westaby points out that Health Care in the U.K. may be "free", but it is only available to those the government deems worthwhile saving because there is only so much money to go around. Patients considered too old or too sick were told to go home and die. The majority of Westaby's heart implants were funded through charity, not NHS.
And lest you think they're sending away geriatrics, people in their fifties were considered too old for treatment. Children and people in the twenties were turned down because they were deemed too sick. National Health Care may be fine for normal well-checks and colds and sniffles, but if you need highly specialized care, like a heart transplant, good luck. Hope the government thinks you're worth saving.
Westaby, though British, received training in the United States and he introduced inventions by American doctors, such as a tiny electric heart that circulates the blood for the defective heart inside people. Interestingly, there is no pulse as there is no pumping involved.
All of Westaby's stories are suspenseful because you don't know if his patients are going to make it. Much of what he does is brand new and he is only allowed to try the new technology on patients who are going to die anyway. Some of them get a reprieve, some don't, but the medical advancements are stupendous.
My only complaint and why I did not give the book five stars was the foul language used sporadically through out the book. I mean, come on, you're a brilliant man, couldn't you at least pretend to have a professional grip on the English language? I know what he was doing was extremely stressful, but try to show you possess the vocabulary worthy of your mind, not the vocabulary of an adolescent. Or brain damaged people. My grandmother never swore a word until after her stroke.
That quibble aside, I highly recommend this book. It is not only informative and exciting and fascinating, it is well-written. Westaby, assuming he didn't use a ghost writer-and it doesn't read in the stilted, wooden fashion of a ghost writer-apart from the occasional f-and s-bombs, has superb literary skills.
Finally, people interested in changing our health care system to a socialized form because then "everyone can have health care" should read this book. They might have second thoughts.
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