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

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SAVING LIVES AGAINST ALL ODDS

A 12-week old unborn baby with a fatal heart defect...a skier drowned for an hour in a frozen Norwegian lake...a comatose brain surgery patient...a teenager with four rapidly expanding tumors. Twenty years ago all of them would have been given up for dead-with no realistic hope for their survival. But today, thanks to incredible new advances by pioneering physicians and medical researchers, each of these ...

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Overview

SAVING LIVES AGAINST ALL ODDS

A 12-week old unborn baby with a fatal heart defect...a skier drowned for an hour in a frozen Norwegian lake...a comatose brain surgery patient...a teenager with four rapidly expanding tumors. Twenty years ago all of them would have been given up for dead-with no realistic hope for their survival. But today, thanks to incredible new advances by pioneering physicians and medical researchers, each of these individuals is alive and well, having literally cheated death.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta-neurosurgeon, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN, and bestselling author-in Cheating Death, chronicles the almost unbelievable science that has made these seemingly miraculous recoveries possible, recoveries achieved by a bold new breed of doctors who refuse to accept that any life is irretrievably lost. Drawing on extensive case files and his unprecedented access to breaking news in his field, Dr. Gupta clearly and dramatically explains how revolutionary technological advances are extending our understanding of the human body's survival mechanism-and literally shifting the line between life and death. Through these deeply personal and often moving stories of medical triumphs over almost unthinkable barriers, Dr. Gupta transforms all our assumptions about the limits at the beginning and end of human life.

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Editorial Reviews

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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. In real-life example after example, Dr. Gupta describes how these unpredicted advances are changing not only the face of medicine, but the possibilities of human life. This forceful book received positive reviews in hardcover; now in paperback.

Publishers Weekly
High-profile physician-journalist Gupta—a medical reporter for CNN and columnist for Time who declined President Obama's nomination to be surgeon general—knows a great story when he hears one, and in this collection he rolls out extraordinarily harrowing and inspiring tales from the annals of they-ought-to-be-dead. When there is an injury, a heart attack or any loss of oxygen to the brain, time is the essential factor in determining whether a patient will live. For instance, “therapeutic hypothermia,” by reducing the brain's need for oxygen immediately after a trauma, allows more time for treatments to work. Gupta also notes that lives can be saved through incremental changes to current medical techniques rather than revolutionary breakthroughs. Eliminating the breathing component from CPR and concentrating only on chest compressions has been shown to raise heart attack survival rates to an unheard-of 20%. The achievements are stunning, though Gupta notes “none of the exciting medical changes that we've come across will eliminate the sense of awe and mystery that stalks our notions of death.” Yet it's beyond comforting to know there are doctors who simply refuse to quit a brave but ultimately losing battle to wrestle control over death. (Oct. 12)
Library Journal
CNN correspondent Gupta presents individual stories of medical "miracles" that demonstrate the power of medicine today. He tells how therapeutic hypothermia can save lives by lowering body temperatures, similar to an animal's hibernation state. He looks at experimental forms of CPR that might improve usage and save more lives. There's a chapter on new treatments for brain tumors and one on research into near-death experiences. Ending with the changing definition of "death" through the years, from cardiac death to brain death to something else that is difficult to define, Gupta leaves readers wondering not only about medical miracles but also how future doctors will determine who's really dead and when. As one of the interviewed researchers says, "That's not so dead." VERDICT This book is all over the place as far as the medical anecdotes go, but it has a friendly, narrative, storytelling feel that will satisfy fans of popular science. Gupta's last book, Chasing Life, hit the best-sellers lists; expect demand at public libraries from CNN viewers and readers of popular nonfiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/09.]—Elizabeth Williams, Washoe Cty. Lib. Syst., Reno, NV
Kirkus Reviews
In this followup to Chasing Life (2007), neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Gupta illustrates just how fuzzy the line between life and death can be, and explains what medicine and science are doing to blur it even further. When the heart stops, when tests indicate "brain death," when a patient hasn't breathed for an hour or more-these have long been understood as hard-and-fast markers of death. Gupta uses real-life stories to reveal how ambiguous these situations actually are: a skier who was successfully resuscitated after spending more than an hour frozen underwater; a man who emerged from a coma unscathed after having been declared a "vegetable"; a 22-week-old fetus whose damaged heart was repaired in utero. These stories and the science behind them are rounded out with a look at those who seek to cheat death even further. Researchers challenge the status quo on CPR, doctors experiment with "therapeutic hypothermia" and scientists seek to induce suspended animation in injured soldiers by mimicking the chemistry of hibernating animals. Gupta always presents fascinating information, even if the prose is occasionally clumsy and the storytelling inelegant. The author tries to bring a balanced perspective to each issue. The chapter on "Cheating Death in the Womb," for instance, includes a much-needed counterpoint by a sociologist who emphasizes that pregnant women are patients in their own right, not simply fetal "heart-lung machines." Because Gupta focuses only on the "medical miracles," however, he misses an opportunity for an important cost-benefit analysis of the highly risky and often-unsuccessful attempts to "cheat death."Well-informed and accessible, but incomplete.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446558006
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/12/2009
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

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.

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