RAISING LAZARUS by Robert Pensack


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 The haunting story of a man's struggle to survive with a terribly damaged heart. As a youngster, Pensack was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a progressive disease of the heart muscle and a condition that had killed his mother when he was only five. Assisted here by Williams, a skilled writer, Pensack reveals how his condition has shaped his life from the day of his mother's death to his recent heart transplant at the age of 42. Opening with a harrowing scene in which he very nearly died on his kitchen floor in front of his own three-year-old son, Pensack's story is given immediacy by being told in the first person and the present tense, and it is given impact by the frankness with which he shares the intimate details of the trauma he suffered not only in body but in spirit. As a young man, he imagined that if he could become a doctor he would somehow be able to cure himself, and he set about learning everything he could about his heart condition. In medical school, however, he found himself identifying not with doctors but with corpses and patients. His repeated brushes with death unhinged him emotionally, leaving him at times terrified, isolated, out of touch with reality, and virtually unable to function. Pensack recounts how he eventually came to recognize the symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder and to understand that, for him, a particularly severe level of stress would always be a fact of life. When he finally did become a doctor, he chose not cardiology but psychiatry. Pensack's story is filled with vivid descriptions of clinical procedures performed on his body, but more memorable is what he reveals about how living close to death affects the mind. Packs a powerful punch.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0-399-14001-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1994


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