A debut autobiography chronicles the diverse life of an esteemed medical pioneer.
Lawrence-Brown, an innovative western Australia vascular surgeon, grew up in East Africa in a time demarcated by Harold Macmillan’s “Wind of Change” speech signaling great upheaval in the British Empire. It was a time that heralded independence and republic change for countries like Kenya, where the author was born to a charismatic, fourth-generation colonial father who became a professional safari guide. The author’s mother was a former British navy veteran who felt lonely once her husband’s business blossomed thanks to the postwar economy and an influx of American tourists. Readers will get a proper history lesson on the region as Lawrence-Brown writes descriptively and authoritatively about local unrest due to rebellions against the British colonial regime and the many moves he and his family made to achieve safety and a quality education for him. The author’s exhaustive, predominantly anecdotal memoir moves smoothly through time to boarding school, high school with its strict rules, boyhood adventures climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and going on safaris, and the political turmoil leading to the end of Britain’s colonial rule that crushed his aspirations of studying overseas. Lawrence-Brown eventually went to Australia in 1965, seeking to further his education in surgical medicine, which became sandwiched between navigating a tricky new culture and dating and embracing commingled “flat life.” After years of creatively documented medical school study, the author writes proudly of finding his footing in surgical and vascular medicine: “I still wanted the bright lights of real surgery, and my path was set.” Lawrence-Brown ultimately gained great renown for inventive and groundbreaking research and clinical development, and he eventually married, though a medical scare found him in the operating theater as a patient. The author is most at home sharing the many anecdotes that proved formative in the shaping of his adolescent character as well as those integral to his success as a visionary surgeon working with the human aorta. With vivid characterization, florid prose, and dramatic flair, Lawrence-Brown offers stories of how helping ailing people became the cornerstone for many of his actions up to and including his development of the revolutionary stent graft for abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Readers interested in African history or cardiac medicine will find this atmospheric, meticulously detailed personal opus enticing, vastly informative, and entertaining.