Open Hearts: Stories of the Surgery That Changes Children's Lives
By: Kate Bull
Nearly all of us will, at some point, know someone who was born with a heart defect. But, as the surgical scars so often remain hidden, we just might not realise it.
Powerfully telling of the patients and their experiences, Open Hearts is a remarkable medical story: we are often so focused on ‘extraordinary’ people and their achievements, we forget just how incredible the ‘ordinary’ achievements of living can be.
Until the 1960s ‘blue babies’ were a striking sight in our streets. Suffering from congenital heart disease offered a bleak outlook to young patients and a heartbreaking experience for parents. Very few would make it to adulthood; now, in the West at least, most have a much higher chance of survival.
In Open Hearts Kate Bull, formerly a cardiologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, tells not just of the development of heart surgery in children, but of the patients, past and present, whose lives have been transformed. Besides the technology, the sociology of medicine has changed substantially since the 1950s – think of the atmosphere of children’s wards. Other things have barely changed – consider the dread of kissing your child goodbye at the door of an operating theatre in any era.
Children’s heart surgery is often seen as a medical triumph; but, for all the successful operations completed, thousands of pioneering patients have gone before, perhaps facing their own uncertain futures. Today, we place great hope in the power of science. Many lives have been saved; but, sometimes, we ask medicine to do more than it can.
By turns frightening, heart-wrenching and inspiring, Open Hearts is a powerful story of medical progress, hope and survival.
Terrific – up there with the best recent medical books like Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm
- Peter Forbes, author of Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage and The Gecko’s Foot
It will tug at the heart strings with accounts of real human suffering … What I loved more than anything else about this book was the sense of wonder it retains … This meticulously researched and beautifully written book is suffused with an honesty which makes it hard to ignore and a warmth which makes it hard to put down, even when blinking back the tears
- Richard Littledale, blogger