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Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles That Are Saving Lives Against All Odds

Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles That Are Saving Lives Against All Odds

3.1 20
by Gupta

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An unborn baby with a fatal heart defect . . . a skier submerged for an hour in a frozen Norwegian lake . . . a comatose brain surgery patient whom doctors have declared a "vegetable."

Twenty years ago all of them would have been given up for dead, with no realistic hope for survival. But today, thanks to incredible new medical advances, each of these


An unborn baby with a fatal heart defect . . . a skier submerged for an hour in a frozen Norwegian lake . . . a comatose brain surgery patient whom doctors have declared a "vegetable."

Twenty years ago all of them would have been given up for dead, with no realistic hope for survival. But today, thanks to incredible new medical advances, each of these individuals is alive and well . . .Cheating Death.

In this riveting book, Dr. Sanjay Gupta-neurosurgeon, chief medical correspondent for CNN, and bestselling author-chronicles the almost unbelievable science that has made these seemingly miraculous recoveries possible. A bold new breed of doctors has achieved amazing rescues by refusing to accept that any life is irretrievably lost. Extended cardiac arrest, "brain death," not breathing for over an hour-all these conditions used to be considered inevitably fatal, but they no longer are. Today, revolutionary advances are blurring the traditional line between life and death in fascinating ways.

Drawing on real-life stories and using his unprecedented access to the latest medical research, Dr. Gupta dramatically presents exciting accounts of how pioneering physicians and researchers are altering our understanding of how the human body functions when it comes to survival-and why more and more patients who once would have died are now alive. From experiments with therapeutic hypothermia to save comatose stroke or heart attack victims to lifesaving operations in utero to the study of animal hibernation to help wounded soldiers on far-off battlefields, these remarkable case histories transform and enrich all our assumptions about the true nature of death and life.

Editorial Reviews

Thanks to recent medical miracles, the meaning of "hopeless" is dwindling. In Cheating Death, renowned neurosurgeon and chief CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta describes new discoveries and technologies that are saving lives that were previously almost automatically thought lost. Using real-life examples, Dr. Gupta describes how these unpredicted advances are changing not only the face of medicine, but the possibilities of human life.

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Hachette Audio
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What People are Saying About This

Sanjay Gupta melds dramatic stories of people on the cusp of death rescued by life-saving advances. This book deeply touches the heart and enlightens the mind. --Jerome Groopman, M.D., Recanati Professor, Harvard Medical School, author of How Doctors Think

I owe my recovery and my health to medical advances and the remarkable pioneers behind them. In The World's Doctor, Sanjay Gupta, delivers a breathtaking preview of a coming revolution in medicine that challenges virtually everything we think we know about living and dying. A truly provocative and fascinating reading experience. --William Jefferson Clinton

In Cheating Death, Dr. Sanjay Gupta chronicles scientific advances that are saving patients’ lives in striking and almost unfathomable ways. This is a wonderful book and should be read by both healthcare professionals and the lay public. All will walk away feeling a sense of joy in the changes that Dr. Gupta so carefully and warmly details. --Henry S. Friedman, M.D., James B. Powell, Jr. Professor of Neuro-Oncology; Deputy Director, The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center

You will be on the edge of your seat as you read the superbly crafted stories of people who have beaten the odds, something I like to think I know quite a bit about. My friend Dr. Sanjay Gupta, America's doctor, has written a page-turner. It's an exciting medical thriller with the compassion, hope, excitement and aspiration that define Sanjay. --Lance Armstrong

Meet the Author

Sanjay Gupta, MD is a practicing neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital and associate chief of service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He is a columnist for TIME magazine, Chief Medical Correspondent at CNN, a contributor to 60 Minutes and appears reguarly on the CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric. Gupta is the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing Life.

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Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles That Are Saving Lives Against All Odds 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
gl More than 1 year ago
Sanjay Gupta shares stories of patients that had fallen within that gray zone where they are "neither truly dead or actually alive," and have subsequently benefited from good luck and medical expertise and recovered to lead productive lives. I found the book fascinating. The clear and detailed descriptions of the medical cases and discoveries were riveting in and of themselves. For instance, learning how hypothermia can slow down the effect of lack of oxygen caused by a stroke or a heart attack is helpful, but it made a difference to learn that "next step." The use of hypothermia only became practicable when doctors discovered that it is essential to minimize the use of liquids when raising the body's temperature. By keeping the use of liquids to a minimum, the doctors are able to prevent the brain from expanding and avoid subsequent brain damage. I hadn't known much about CPR and did not know that that survival rate from cardiac arrest outside of a hospital is rare. Did you know that only about 2% of the victims survive without long term damage? In certain parts of Arizona, people have a substantially better survival rate because of the use of a modified CPR technique and a public health effort to train more people in CPR. The number one thing that can save your life if you have a heart attack is to have a bystander who is trained in CPR and is willing to help. The bystander rate of CPR is 20%, in large part because many people are hesitant about performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Through training and education programs, places like Seattle have a 50% rate of bystander CPR assistance and this has meant that the cardiac arrest survival rate in Seattle is much better than in other parts of the country. Doctors studied the role of artificial respiration in emergency resuscitation and analyzed the three-phase model of cardiac arrest (electrical, circulatory and metabolic). I won't go into a technical explanation here, but the in the first 4 minutes, the heart has its own energy and has oxygen. The heart needs assistance in getting its beat back. Defibrillation works during this phase because it reinserts the heart's rhythm. From the 4 to 10 minute mark is the circulatory phase, the heart needs assistance to circulate oxygen. It is critical to have someone pump the heart artificially. If there is a delay pumping the heart because the rescuer is performing mouth-to-mouth,then the heart isn't receiving the oxygen that it needs. Sanjay Gupta and the doctors that he cites point out that the most important thing is to get the blood and oxygen moving by compressing the chest. Those are just two examples of practical and revolutionary advances in medicine that Sanjay Gupta covers in Cheating Death. I found Cheating Death to be a fascinating read and recommend it to both laypersons and medical professionals both for the scientific innovations that it chronicles and for its clear writing style. Publisher: Wellness Central; 1 edition (October 12, 2009), 304 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Mike_Holloway More than 1 year ago
In the book, on his TV show, and in interviews promoting the book, Gupta is unmistakably confusing coma, persistant vegetative state, and brain death. He's clearly linking his stories of recovery from vegetative state with brain death and organ procurement for transplantation. Brain death is an entirely separate condition from both persistant vegetative state, and coma. Mark Ragucci was never declared brain dead. The NIH (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/coma/coma.htm), and many other institions and organizations concerned with medical information, take pains to inform the public that there is a big difference. When a family is informed of a declaration of brain death they shouldn't have to feel that medical professionals are conspiring and failing to save their loved one. Yet Gupta seems determined to convince the public that brain death is just vegetative state, and that medical professionals are just reluctant to help the "brain dead". Why is he doing this? I can only guess. Its a far more dramatic story, and something sure to make him more money, to claim that more isn't done to save the brain dead because surgeons want organs for transplant. Organ transplantation has always sparked a primal irrational fear, generating more urban legends and ghoulish stories than any other medical procedure. Next of kin often refuse to allow organ donation because of the feeling that something ghoulish is being done with their loved one, and the suspicion that they are being allowed to die for someone else's benefit. Any number of news organizations, even respected ones, have, at one time or another, repeated the most bizarre urban legends of organ snatching as verified events. CNN has recently aired several reports claiming a vast US organ black market exists based on friend of a friend reports and one arrest of someone attempting to broker a kidney sale. Don't expect any followup reports or arrests.
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jskelenton More than 1 year ago
The book is an excellent and exciting read for those in the healthcare profession, and the students getting ready to join it, who are interested in advances in medical technology. Sanjay Gupta, MD has done an excellent job researching and organizing the information found in these pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MDT More than 1 year ago
This easy to understand comprehensive work is quite informative and interesting. Any information that we could learn to extend our life expectancy is vital...especially as we age. I had taken the old CPR course and find this new recommended information easier and safer to put into use. Amazing how lives have been saved with this knowledge. Some would call these stories miracles..I would classify them as devine interventions.
LegalBeagle More than 1 year ago
Cheating Death by Sanjay Gupta, M.D. would be considered science fiction if the stories were not true. The dramatic vignettes include: a skier submerged in icy waters for over an hour without a pulse; a man with an invariably lethal brain tumor who lives to celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of his diagnosis; and a "hopeless" neurological patient who returns to his medical practice. These "medical miracles" occurred in large part due to the interruption of the death domino chain. As Gupta explains, Death is not a single event, but a process that may be interrupted, even reversed. And . . . at any point during this process, the course of what seems inevitable can be changed. That is precisely what . . . the book [is about]: the possibility of cheating death. In addition, to the compelling personal survival stories, Gupta also highlights exciting new medical research that may save scores of lives in the future. The chapter on suspended animation (a medically induced "safe cocoon") is particularly exciting! Suspended animation involves turning the heart off for an extended period of time and later restarting it. As one researcher reflects, "the whole of emergency medicine is a time dependent thing . . . . [And] things that can't be fixed now, we could fix with more time. There's no question." Cheating Death is an entertaining and eye opening read into the medical advances of today and a glimpse into the promise of tomorrow. Publisher: Wellness Central, Hachette Book Group (Oct. 12, 2009), 282 pages. Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.
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AFaulkner More than 1 year ago
We've all- always- been told to not judge a book by its cover. I'd disagree. The cover of Cheating Death is strikingly simple: a portion in white and a portion in black. But, like the line so oft described by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, it is shifted. And, like the 'faint no-man's land' created therein, Cheating Death finds itself on a few fine lines- yet, doesn't necessarily tread softly. Nevertheless, we'll walk this line. We'll find ourselves following several people with unbelievable stories. We'll believe them. But, more importantly, we'll understand them. This is not a book of optical illusions that leaves you wondering why? Or how? Neither does it leave you wondering where the illusions are. If balance is the decider of success, Gupta has found success in Cheating Death. Gupta often returns to the progress that is being made. But, with that, comes the maddening opposition to that progress. One is left wondering how such drastic changes in our perceptions of life and death (and how to go about blurring that perception) could be so ignored by the general populous. Yet, Gupta offers an explanation- though, you may not like it. However, despite the formidable amount of information I imagine was left out, there is one pebble (or boulder) I would have wished unturned- the role faith plays in the book. I concede that faith is an important part of how people view death- whether attached to any particular religion or not. Yet, in a world of medicine that sometimes holds reputation above all else, a book that delves- if only momentarily- into the world of faith, only holds to lose. Cheating Death, in all its moments of technicality and compassion, often feels strikingly inviting. Imagine, if you will, that Gupta's work is the script for one of his segments on CNN. In much the same way, you will be drawn in; you will smile; and, you may even cry. Gupta's writing style lends itself easily to this proposition- and, that may be one if its successes. What comes to mind is an excellently written, thoughtful episode of the successful television series, House. If you're of the inquisitive type, and wish to be unhinged (if only for a moment), read Cheating Death. If you'd rather sit- quietly, I hope- in a fragile sense of comfort, I won't stop you.