The drama of surgery conveyed by an eyewitness with the smarts of an American business watcher will appeal to the general...

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THE SURGEONS

LIFE AND DEATH IN A TOP HEART CENTER

The versatile Morris (The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy, 2005, etc.) brings his customary research and observational skills to probe the heart industry.

For it is an industry: fueled by discoveries, purveyed by artists and craftsmen supplied by medical schools, in demand by customers who shun the alternative. Heart disease is the number-one killer worldwide. In good hands, as the author graphically describes, even some of the worst cases—heart patients with multiple chronic ills and earlier surgery—survive to thrive. Morris spent a year at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital watching coronary bypass surgeries, transplants, valve replacements and congenital-defect corrections, performed by some of the world’s best—the surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses. No question, the doctors are dedicated (and well paid). Surprisingly, those at Columbia form a mutual-admiration society—no primal egos here. The author reiterates what the data show: If you’re a patient, you would be wise to go to a top-tier hospital whose ORs are busy 24/7 rather than one performing a few procedures a year. While Columbia treats some indigent patients, Morris leaves to the end the issue of haves and have-nots, seeing only incremental changes to expand insurance coverage and lamenting the emphasis on high-cost, high-tech therapies rather than prevention. The tech focus is largely driven by R and D, he observes. Science is moving toward less invasive procedures: stents to open blocked arteries and robotic instruments working through small incisions, rather than the breaking-the-chest-bone-and-entering styles of the past. Thus interventional cardiology, the medical specialty which allows placement of stents and angioplasties, is the hot new field, while heart surgery declines. The future may see a merger of the two specialties.

The drama of surgery conveyed by an eyewitness with the smarts of an American business watcher will appeal to the general public but be of particular pertinence to patients and policymakers.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-06562-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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