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Publisher's Summary

An incredible memoir from one of the world's most eminent heart surgeons, with some of the most remarkable and poignant cases he's worked on.

Grim Reaper sits on the heart surgeon's shoulder. A slip of the hand and life ebbs away.

The balance between life and death is so delicate, and the heart surgeon walks that rope between the two. In the operating room, there is no time for doubt. It is flesh, blood, rib retractors and pumping the vital organ with your bare hand to squeeze the life back into it. An off day can have dire consequences - this job has a steep learning curve, and the cost is measured in human life. Cardiac surgery is not for the faint of heart.

Professor Stephen Westaby took chances and pushed the boundaries of heart surgery. He saved hundreds of lives over the course of a 35-year career, and now, in his astounding memoir, Westaby details some of his most remarkable and poignant cases - such as the baby who had suffered multiple heart attacks by six months old, a woman who lived the nightmare of locked-in syndrome, and a man whose life was powered by a battery for eight years.

A powerful, important and incredibly moving book, Fragile Lives offers exceptional insight into the exhilarating and sometimes tragic world of heart surgery and how it feels to hold someone's life in your hands.

©2017 Stephen Westaby (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Fragile Lives

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An Amazing Life

I'm so thankful for selfless surgeons like this. Just a shame now the NHS treat their Doctors so terribly so much so that talented doctors leave the system. an amazing book, I recommend it highly.

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walking alongside in some small way

brillant. I feel as if I was along for the journey and for that I'm thankful.

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Loved, almost all of this

i enjoyed the book immensely except a very small part in whuch the author, in my opinion, criticises front line EMS workers unfairly - as a cardiac specialist I challenge him to perform his work under their circumstances! I really enjoyed the rest of the book and greatly appreciated the narrator's efforts to bring the story to life.

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Ispirational

Where does Fragile Lives rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best medical books Ive read. Humorous, witty and well written account of some of the patients that have spanned his career. At times also had me moved to tears I could actually feel the emotions of his connections with his patients and frustrations of working in a broken healthcare system. I was even inspired to want to pursue surgical training!
Would also be easy to understand for those without a medical background.

What did you like best about this story?

How well I was able to feel the emotions of the author.

What about Gordon Griffin’s performance did you like?

Got into character well

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Both

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  • Ruth Nixon
  • 01-05-2017

What a book, what a man

I brought this book after reading an extract within a national newspaper. I wasn't disappointed.
I wouldn't be able to begin to imagine what a day in the life of a heart surgeon would bring Prof Westaby has written a book which is both enthralling as it is interesting and exciting. I couldn't put it down.
This gentleman has a gift for his work as a surgeon and one which so many people must be so grateful for.
Excellent book, excellent man, excellent work.
A must read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Starskey
  • 27-04-2017

Inciteful

Good book.
Narration good but annoying as pronunciation of medical terminology mostly Incorrect and so annoying.

2 people found this helpful

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  • S. Corner
  • 17-04-2017

Absolutely brilliant. Please read it!

I am not one to like anything to do with surgery at all! But this book was so good and easy to listen to, sharing his and his patients stories. The true dedication and honesty comes across. I would never have thought of a top heart surgeon coming from Scunthorpe,which I knew as a child, so this blew away some myths and stereotyping. Much food for thought at the end about the NHS, funding and the league tables that sets a culture of blame. So applicable for other social and public services. I hope someone in Goverment reads this book. Thank you for writing this as it is a truly amazing story/career and read so well by the narrator.

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  • Rob Wellings
  • 05-04-2017

The story of a real life superhero.

The first chapter almost made me chuck up in my car on a densely packed M6. However, once I became accustomed to the blood and guts, I couldn't stop listening. This is an amazing memoir, so glad he shared it with us.

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  • Dr. Kenneth Lancer
  • 22-02-2017

The story of a great surgeon and a great man

Would you consider the audio edition of Fragile Lives to be better than the print version?

Possibly; My preference is to listen to a good story teller

Who was your favorite character and why?

Stephen Westaby

Have you listened to any of Gordon Griffin’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The glory days of pioneering heart surgery

Any additional comments?

This is one of the best books that I have ever come across. When Stephen Westaby was angry I was angry; when he was tearful and choked with emotion so was I. I lived every moment with him. Please read this book and you will not regret it.

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  • Teddy
  • 24-11-2020

Interesting for sure

Great book, couldn’t give 5 stars though due to some seriously dated language at times when referring to protected characteristics. Worth a listen though, a great peek into the world of a heart surgeon.

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  • Tom Hanna
  • 11-10-2020

The agony and ecstasy of a cardiac surgeon.

The book is an "unputdownable" masterpiece. It flows easily using an "idiot's guide" terminology of few medical grammatical terms. Makes for an exciting read, narrated skillfully and respectfully.

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  • M. Mcdermott
  • 03-07-2020

The second book is better.

I listened to the second book first, not knowing there was a first, so listening to this, knowing what I knew, and knowing what was not mentioned, felt a bit strange. The whole head injury thing that has such a big effect on his career is not spoken about at all. An amalgamation of the two books would be ideal in my opinion. It is still very good, but if you are going to listen to only one, then make it The Knife's Edge

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  • Flo
  • 29-04-2019

Fascinating tales from an excellent surgeon

Utterly fascinating, very interesting to hear how the nhs has changed. A real insight into the life of a genius.

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  • Trience
  • 11-03-2019

Utterly fascinating

I decided to order this having watched Stephen interview on this morning. In that interview he came across as genuine, humble and, quite frank, a genius. Listening to the book only confirmed that. He's a remarkable human being that has made such a difference to medicine and lives. It's people like Stephen who made the world envious of our doctors and our fantastic NHS. Despite the complex topics being explained the book was easy to follow. You felt the tension of every operation and situation almost as if you were there. Whether you are interested in medicine or not, this book gives great insight into the human body and psyche. In short, a recommended read!

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