This book is what it says it is- a memoir of a female heart surgeon. It is much better than I thought it would be; at first I was a bit apprehensive as to what a book written by a surgeon would be like! My preconceptions were wrong and the book turned out to be very amazing and inspirational.
I am actually a bit 'biased' you might say as I am a female medical student, interested in surgery, and so Dr Magliato is an enormous role model to me and someone to look up to. There are not enough female role-models in surgery to inspire young women to pursue this branch which is a shame.
Anyway, back to the book: I found it to be well written and easy to follow. There are technical details included to satisfy med students/health professionals etc, but Dr Magliato includes explanations for everything so I have no doubt that no matter what your background is in, there should be no issues in terms of understanding what's going on! Furthermore, I thought the structure of the book was good, it didn't stick to a strictly chronological format; the author takes you to her past as well as to specific medical cases she dealt with. I also liked the way that each chapter is quite unique- one may be an action-packed, adrenaline-inducing account of an emergency heart surgery, whilst another focuses on cardiovascular disease issues that women are faced with.
I was actually unaware that cardiovascular disease affects more women than men; this is definitely something that medical schools are not highlighting enough, especially the fact that women may present with different symptoms of heart disease. I hope this book will be widely read, and I recommend it to everyone- not just people of a medical background and not just women.
[Extra details: I have the hardback copy, it is lovely- good quality. The size is just right, it doesn't take long to read, don't imagine it's a huge book.]
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
"One opportunity builds upon another."4 Feb. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
"Healing Hearts" is Dr. Kathy Magliato's account of her life as one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the United States. She is also a loving wife and the doting mother of two young sons. At forty-five, Magliato is an attending surgeon and the director of women's cardiac services in a California hospital. She has an MBA, which has enabled her to branch out into the business side of medicine. Her husband, Nick, is a busy liver transplant surgeon, and the two are in frequent contact every day, trying to coordinate their hectic schedules to allow for family time.
Dr. Magliato touches briefly on her childhood, during which she learned to work hard and be self-sufficient; her grueling medical training under some tough mentors; the gender prejudice and humiliation that she endured from her sexist colleagues; the special satisfaction that she derives from healing people's hearts ("an incredible honor and privilege"); the difficult balancing act of juggling her career and personal life; the need to be detached in the operating room, yet tender with patients and their families; and the anguish of letting a patient go when he cannot be saved. Magliato is on call 24/7, including weekends, and even her nights are interrupted with frequent pages and phone calls. She is chronically exhausted and wistfully states, "How I wish I could be lazy. Just once."
This is a frank, occasionally grisly, and often poignant look at how heart disease affects our lives. Anyone, from an infant to a nonagenarian, can have a heart infection, a tear in the aorta, blot clots, leaky valves and a host of other problems. A good heart surgeon should be proficient, knowledgeable, meticulous, steady, and when necessary, quick. In dire situations, every second counts and immediate decisions must be made that, if wrong, can cost a person his life. Some of the most touching passages are the ones dealing with an elderly woman's decision to reject heroic measures so that she can die peacefully, and Magliato's holding an eleven-day old baby in her arms who, unfortunately, did not make it. Not all is gloom and doom; Magliato has dinner with a former patient named Sylvester whom she treated six years earlier. Sylvester needed two mechanical hearts to stabilize him while he awaited a transplant. Eventually, he received a heart, but all did not go well. After suffering severe complications (including respiratory failure, kidney problems, convulsions, and a pulmonary embolism), he managed to pull through and resume an active life. These are situations that can pierce even a tough doctor's armor.
The author takes great pains to emphasize how high the mortality rate is for females suffering from cardiovascular disease. She advises women to meticulously monitor their blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and weight. If they experience any of the warning signs listed in the book, they should rush to the emergency room. Too many females assume that heart disease cannot strike them; nothing could be further from the truth.
Magliato has a lively and often darkly humorous writing style. Occasionally, she is too technical in her explanations, and she has an unfortunate tendency to be a bit self-congratulatory. Still, "Heart Healing" is an instructive look at the formidable day-to-day challenges that a surgeon faces, as well as a peek at the future of this branch of medicine. If someone must undergo heart surgery, he would be wise to choose a practitioner who is not only competent, but also dedicated and compassionate. One gets the impression that Magliato's patients are fortunate to be in her highly skilled hands.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Arresting cardiac event16 Feb. 2010
S. Michael Bowen
- Published on Amazon.com
In the past half-century, only about 180 American women have become board-certified heart surgeons. And just like the men, sometimes they lose patients. In Kathy's Magliato's "Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon," women of all ages die -- bleeding out on the table, stricken by trauma, born with cardiac deformities. In the opening pages, she goes from cracking open a woman's chest ("like breaking a wishbone, we pulled her sternum apart") to delicately massaging a still-beating heart. We hear about how she performs complicated surgeries; how she fends off sexist doctors; how she goes on frantic helicopter rides to harvest hearts from accident victims; and what it's like to watch a pathologist down in the morgue rip open the heart that you'd sewn up hours before. Occasionally, Magliato gets too cutesy or sentimental. But she draws good analogies: In anatomy lab, she says, teasing out the seven branches of the facial nerve "is like trying to dissect a spider's web embedded in Play-Doh." Anyone practicing to perform bypass surgery should take "some cooked angel hair pasta (overcooked, not al dente) and sew the ends together with a thread the size of a human hair." As for balancing careers and parenting with her liver-surgeon husband, a couple of questions tell it all: "Who's going to take Gabriel to his 6:00 p.m. Mommy/Daddy and Me class at Saint Matthew's parish?" Magliato asks. "Who's going to complete the bile duct anastomosis on that liver transplant patient?" Magliato includes advice for working mothers, though after med school, heart transplants, an MBA, marriage, two pregnancies and the nanny in Pacific Palisades, it's a bit much to arrive at the perfectly nutritious and zero-environmental-impact school lunches that this Power Mommy packs for her two sons. Still, Magliato can be blunt and self-deprecating, and she's on a campaign to reduce heart disease, imploring women to "know their numbers" and realize that fatigue, not sudden chest pain, is the chief symptom of impending heart attack among women. Death surrounds us, but life persists. With that same kind of stubbornness, Kathy Magliato tries to keep hearts beating. In her memoir, she succeeds.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Interesting look into a surgeon's life17 Feb. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Dr. Magliato seems to have two purposes in writing this book: to give an inside look at life as (one of the few) female surgeons, and to raise awareness about the impact of heart disease on women.
Anyone who has aspirations to be a surgeon or enter the medical field will find that part of the book interesting. She shares why she wanted to go into medicine, her path there, and specifically why she chose thoracic surgery as a specialty, and then how she went on to become a transplant surgeon.
Part of the memoir leans a bit too far into the self-indulgent for my tastes, but I also recognize that when one is writing about one's life, it's hard not to come across in this way.
The information about heart disease in women is fascinating. It's incredible how much traditional medicine and media make it out to be a man's disease. When we think heart attack, we think man. Because of this, women's symptoms are ignored and they are far more likely to die as a result of a heart attack than a man.
For this reason alone, women should read this book so that they can be their own advocate.
This information is presented in an excellent way -- fascinating, readable, and not at all heavy-handed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Dr. Magliato tells it like it is.20 Mar. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Dr.Magliato writes a terrific memoir that is honest and forthright. She does not mince words on how tough it was being a female breaking into a traditionally male world. At the same time, she is so compassionate and caring for her patients and that comes through loud and clear in her writing. (I also know this from a personal point of view as my husband was one of her transplant patients) I highly recommend Dr. Magliato's book to any and all readers.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An AMAZING book!14 Feb. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
WHAT A GREAT BOOK! Though I'd like to write her to hopefully ask about some issues she brought up (I'm a nurse), it was SO GOOD. It honestly made me fall in love with medicine again. SO GOOD. It's a great insight into the world of cardiac surgeouns, as well as medicine, as well as heart health. LOVED it -- I'm sad it's over.