Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

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Gifted Hands by and about Ben Carson, M.D., is the inspiring story of an inner-city kid with poor grades and little motivation, who, at age thirty-three, became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Gifted Hands will transplace you into the operating room to witness surgeries that made headlines around the world, and into the private mind of a compassionate, God-fearing physician who lives to help others. In 1987, Dr. Carson gained worldwide recognition for his part in the first...

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Gifted Hands by and about Ben Carson, M.D., is the inspiring story of an inner-city kid with poor grades and little motivation, who, at age thirty-three, became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Gifted Hands will transplace you into the operating room to witness surgeries that made headlines around the world, and into the private mind of a compassionate, God-fearing physician who lives to help others. In 1987, Dr. Carson gained worldwide recognition for his part in the first successful separation of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head — an extremely complex and delicate operation that was five months of planning and twenty-two hours of actual surgery, involving a surgical plan that Carson helped initiate. Gifted Hands reveals a man with humility, decency, compassion, courage, and sensitivity who serves as a role model for young people (and everyone else) in need of encouragement to attempt the seemingly impossible and to excel in whatever they attempt. Dr. Carson also describes the key role that his highly intelligent though relatively uneducated mother played in his metamorphosis from an unmotivated ghetto youngster into one of the most respected neurosurgeons in the world.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310546511
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 2/1/1992
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 136,963
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Carson is an emeritus professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In 1984, he was named director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, a position he retired from in 2013. In 2008, he was named the inaugural recipient of a professorship in his name, the Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., and Dr. Evelyn Spiro, R.N., Professor of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Also in 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the land. He was the keynote speaker for the President’s National Prayer Breakfasts in 1997 and 2013. Through his philanthropic foundation, the Carson Scholars Fund, he strives to maximize the intellectual potential of every child. An internationally renowned physician, Dr. Carson has authored over a hundred neurosurgical publications and has been awarded more than sixty honorary doctorate degrees and dozens of national merit citations. Dr. Carson has written six best-selling books, and his fifth book, America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great, released in early 2012, made the New York Times Bestseller List. His sixth book, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future, was released in 2014, and became a number one New York Times bestseller. He is a syndicated columnist and a highly sought-after, world-renowned inspirational and motivational speaker.

Cecil Murphey, author of 112 books, has also assisted well-known personalities in writing their biographies.

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Read an Excerpt

Gifted Hands

The Ben Carson Story
By Ben Carson Cecil Murphey


Copyright © 1990 Review and Herald Publishing Association
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-54651-6

Chapter One

"Goodbye, Daddy"

And your daddy isn't going to live with us anymore."

"Why not?" I asked again, choking back the tears. I just could not accept the strange finality of my mother's words. "I love my dad!"

"He loves you too, Bennie ... but he has to go away. For good."

"But why? I don't want him to go. I want him to stay here with us."

"He's got to go-"

"Did I do something to make him want to leave us?"

"Oh, no, Bennie. Absolutely not. Your daddy loves you."

I burst into tears. "Then make him come back."

"I can't. I just can't." Her strong arms held me close, trying to comfort me, to help me stop crying. Gradually my sobs died away, and I calmed down. But as soon as she loosened her hug and let me go, my questions started again.

"Your Daddy did-" Mother paused, and, young as I was, I knew she was trying to find the right words to make me understand what I didn't want to grasp. "Bennie, your daddy did some bad things. Real bad things."

I swiped my hand across my eyes. "You can forgive him then. Don't let him go."

"It's more than just forgiving him,Bennie-"

"But I want him to stay here with Curtis and me and you."

Once again Mother tried to make me understand why Daddy was leaving, but her explanation didn't make a lot of sense to me at 8 years of age. Looking back, I don't know how much of the reason for my father's leaving sank into my understanding. Even what I grasped, I wanted to reject. My heart was broken because Mother said that my father was never coming home again. And I loved him.

Dad was affectionate. He was often away, but when he was home he'd hold me on his lap, happy to play with me whenever I wanted him to. He had great patience with me. I particularly liked to play with the veins on the back of his large hands, because they were so big. I'd push them down and watch them pop back up. "Look! They're back again!" I'd laugh, trying everything within the power of my small hands to make his veins stay down. Dad would sit quietly, letting me play as long as I wanted.

Sometimes he'd say, "Guess you're just not strong enough," and I'd push even harder. Of course nothing worked, and I'd soon lose interest and play with something else.

Even though Mother said that Daddy had done some bad things, I couldn't think of my father as "bad," because he'd always been good to my brother, Curtis, and me. Sometimes Dad brought us presents for no special reason. "Thought you'd like this," he'd say offhandedly, a twinkle in his dark eyes.

Many afternoons I'd pester my mother or watch the clock until I knew it was time for my dad to come home from work. Then I'd rush outside to wait for him. I'd watch until I saw him walking down our alley. "Daddy! Daddy!" I'd yell, running to meet him. He would scoop me into his arms and carry me into the house.

That stopped in 1959 when I was 8 years old and Daddy left home for good. To my young, hurting heart the future stretched out forever. I couldn't imagine a life without Daddy and didn't know if Curtis, my 10-year-old brother, or I would ever see him again.

* * *

I don't know how long I continued the crying and questioning the day Daddy left; I only know it was the saddest day of my life. And my questions didn't stop with my tears. For weeks I pounded my mother with every possible argument my mind could conceive, trying to find some way to get her to make Daddy come back home.

"How can we get by without Daddy?"

"Why don't you want him to stay?"

"He'll be good. I know he will. Ask Daddy. He won't do bad things again."

My pleading didn't make any difference. My parents had settled everything before they told Curtis and me.

"Mothers and fathers are supposed to stay together," I persisted. "They're both supposed to be with their little boys."

"Yes, Bennie, but sometimes it just doesn't work out right."

"I still don't see why," I said. I thought of all the things Dad did with us. For instance, on most Sundays, Dad would take Curtis and me for drives in the car. Usually we visited people, and we'd often stop by to see one family in particular. Daddy would talk with the grown-ups, while my brother and I played with the children. Only later did we learn the truth - my father had another "wife" and other children that we knew nothing about.

I don't know how my mother found out about his double life, for she never burdened Curtis and me with the problem. In fact, now that I'm an adult, my one complaint is that she went out of her way to protect us from knowing how bad things were. We were never allowed to share how deeply she hurt. But then, that was Mother's way of protecting us, thinking she was doing the right thing. And many years later I finally understood what she called his "betrayals with women and drugs."

Long before Mother knew about the other family, I sensed things weren't right between my parents. My parents didn't argue; instead, my father just walked away. He had been leaving the house more and more and staying away longer and longer. I never knew why.

Yet when Mother told me "Your daddy isn't coming back," those words broke my heart.

I didn't tell Mother, but every night when I went to bed I prayed, "Dear Lord, help Mother and Dad get back together again." In my heart I just knew God would help them make up so we could be a happy family. I didn't want them to be apart, and I couldn't imagine facing the future without my father.

But Dad never came home again.

As the days and weeks passed, I learned we could get by without him. We were poorer then, and I could tell Mother worried, although she didn't say much to Curtis or me. As I grew wiser, and certainly by the time I was 11, I realized that the three of us were actually happier than we had been with Dad in the house. We had peace. No periods of deathly silence filled the house. I no longer froze with fear or huddled in my room, wondering what was happening when Mother and Daddy didn't talk.

That's when I stopped praying for them to get back together. "It's better for them to stay split up," I said to Curtis. "Isn't it?"

"Yeah, guess so," he answered. And, like Mother, he didn't say much to me about his own feelings. But I think I knew that he too reluctantly realized that our situation was better without our father.

Trying to remember how I felt in those days after Dad left, I'm not aware of going through stages of anger and resentment. My mother says that the experience pushed Curtis and me into a lot of pain. I don't doubt that his leaving meant a terrible adjustment for both of us boys. Yet I still have no recollection beyond his initial leaving.

Maybe that's how I learned to handle my deep hurt - by forgetting.

* * *

We just don't have the money, Bennie."

In the months after Dad left, Curtis and I must have heard that statement a hundred times, and, of course, it was true. When we asked for toys or candy, as we'd done before, I soon learned to tell from the expression on Mother's face how deeply it hurt her to deny us. After a while I stopped asking for what I knew we couldn't have anyway.

In a few instances resentment flashed across my mother's face. Then she'd get very calm and explain to us boys that Dad loved us but wouldn't give her any money to support us. I vaguely recall a few times when Mother went to court, trying to get child support from him. Afterward, Dad would send money for a month or two - never the full amount - and he always had a legitimate excuse. "I can't give you all of it this time," he'd say, "but I'll catch up. I promise."

Dad never caught up. After a while Mother gave up trying to get any financial help from him.

I was aware that he wouldn't give her money, which made life harder on us. And in my childish love for a dad who had been kind and affectionate, I didn't hold it against him. But at the same time I couldn't understand how he could love us and not want to give us money for food.

One reason I didn't hold any grudges or harsh feelings toward Dad must have been that my mother seldom blamed him - at least not to us or in our hearing. I can hardly think of a time when she spoke against him.

More important than that fact, though, Mother managed to bring a sense of security to our three-member family. While I still missed Dad for a long time, I felt a sense of contentment being with just my mother and my brother because we really did have a happy family.

My mother, a young woman with hardly any education, came from a large family and had many things against her. Yet she pulled off a miracle in her own life, and helped in ours. I can still hear Mother's voice, no matter how bad things were, saying, "Bennie, we're going to be fine." Those weren't empty words either, for she believed them. And because she believed them, Curtis and I believed them too, and they provided a comforting assurance for me.

Part of Mother's strength came from a deep-seated faith in God and perhaps just as much from her innate ability to inspire Curtis and me to know she meant every word she said. We knew we weren't rich; yet no matter how bad things got for us, we didn't worry about what we'd have to eat or where we'd live.

Our growing up without a father put a heavy burden on my mother. She didn't complain - at least not to us - and she didn't feel sorry for herself. She tried to carry the whole load, and somehow I understood what she was doing. No matter how many hours she had to be away from us at work, I knew she was doing it for us. That dedication and sacrifice made a profound impression on my life.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my mother." I'm not sure I want to say it quite like that, but my mother, Sonya Carson, was the earliest, strongest, and most impacting force in my life.

It would be impossible to tell about my accomplishments without starting with my mother's influence. For me to tell my story means beginning with hers.


Excerpted from Gifted Hands by Ben Carson Cecil Murphey Copyright © 1990 by Review and Herald Publishing Association. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 "Goodbye, Daddy" 11
Chapter 2 Carrying the Load 17
Chapter 3 Eight Years Old 23
Chapter 4 Two Positives 32
Chapter 5 A Boy's Big Problem 45
Chapter 6 A Terrible Temper 54
Chapter 7 ROTC Triumph 61
Chapter 8 College Choices 71
Chapter 9 Changing the Rules 80
Chapter 10 A Serious Step 91
Chapter 11 Another Step Forward 112
Chapter 12 Coming Into My Own 123
Chapter 13 A Special Year 135
Chapter 14 A Girl Named Maranda 146
Chapter 15 Heartbreak 155
Chapter 16 Little Beth 167
Chapter 17 Three Special Children 177
Chapter 18 Craig and Susan 185
Chapter 19 Separating the Twins 201
Chapter 20 The Rest of Their Story 213
Chapter 21 Family Affairs 219
Chapter 22 Think Big 225
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 79 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2005

    Sheer Inspiration!!!!!+

    This is the first book that I read in 'ONE' day.I simply couldn't put it down.I plan on reading it to my students here at school.Everybody should read this wonderful book!!!!!

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    "Are Leaders Born or risen out of adversity?"

    It is not too often that we witness the extraordinary success and unusual accomplishment of an individual in spite of his/her disadvantages. Ben Carson who is a son of a black Christian pastor spent his childhood in city of Detroit to overcome many racial and academic obstacles and achieve his dream of being a doctor. Ben, who was not doing well in the school, influenced by the devoted, courageous and religious character of his mother to the level that he beat the odds by going from a worst student in the 5th grade class to win the highest academic achievements in 8th grade. Despite of racial disadvantages he did manage to receive a scholarship from Yale where he met his future wife, Candy, and after obtaining his undergraduate degree he was admitted to the University of Michigan School of Medicine. Dr. Carson also finished his neurosurgical residency at Johns Hopkins University and become an attending neurosurgeon at the university. One of the major turning points of Dr. Carson¿s career was the successful separation of the conjoined Siamese twins (Patrick and Benjamin Binder) in 1987. During the 22 hours of the surgery Dr. Carson along with a team of anesthesiologists, heart surgeons and nurses could cut into the scalp, split the conjoined converging vein, removed the bony tissue that held the two heads and reconstructed the skulls. The twins left Johns Hopkins in 1989 in a good health to celebrate their new life. But may be the biggest achievement of Dr. Carson is yet to come; his wining battle with prostate cancer. It was just recently that this extraordinary neurosurgeon who devoted his whole life to save sick children received the news of his disease while operating on a patient. In an interview with the ¿Night Line¿ Dr. Carson stated that he is cutting back on those long hours of surgery to spend time with his three children, wife and his friends. Although it is heart breaking to hear that one the heroes of medicine himself is facing such difficult moments, Dr. Carson¿s surviving personality has made him surpass everyone¿s expectation in dealing with challenges. ¿Gifted Hands¿ not only is an fascinating story of an underrepresented kid who beat the odds to become one of the elites in neurosurgery and academic medicine in the world but also it is a story of surviving of ingenuous spirit who devoted his exceptional abilities to bring the best gifts of all, the life, to the children. Perhaps the most precious God given gift to Dr. Carson is his ability to survive and overcome unforeseen circumstances with an unconventional approach. Gifted Hand is an excellent example of risen leader out of adversity.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 1999

    The Ben Carson Story

    This book is very motivational and I think that ALL students and anyone else who is striving to achieve goals that seem impossible should read it. His story will give you a completely different outlook on the obstacles you may be facing and it will convince you that you can overcome them!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2013

    Besides the obvious, this book should have been called "Gif

    Besides the obvious, this book should have been called "Gifted Mind". Besides many lives that Doctor Benjamin Carson saved, through his skills, his teachings, his encouragement to others, he saved the most important live, and that was his own. His mind, will to succeed, never give up and never blame anyone but himself, is what got him where he was and where he is today. 

    There are two types of people, who are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. One type tries and when unsuccessful, they blame everyone and everything. There is another type. Those who don't even try and go straight to blame via victim mentality and a problem that exists in society, never in themselves. Benjamin Carson is the third kind, the kind that sees potential and the light in every situation, a light in every possibility and each opportunity. Mr Carson was not born with that opportunity, that silver spoon in his mouth, and in fact, for the inner city kid, who had even less than others, even within that community, Benjamin Carson chose to create his own opportunity. He chose to see the downfalls as challenges, not discouragements. Doctor Carson saw a challenge, not despair or downfall, in everything he did and does. He chose to take life as it comes and play the deck as it was dealt to him, but with his best foot forward and his best possible abilities. 

    This is a story of a man who never accepted what he had as a problem and what he was as a given, but decided to make himself the best that he could be and what his potential allowed him. He was only limited by himself, not what the others saw him and he never excepted failure. As I often say and many do as well, that America is a land of opportunity, but that doesn't mean that opportunity is there for everyone to receive without trying. Some have a gift of birth with fortune and the riches, but for Ben Carson, his fortune and riches was always within himself. It is one of the most inspiring stories and books that I have ever read. It is a real page turner and if they would have taught this mentality to kids, at the young age, we would see a lot more winners and not victims in every walk of life. I wish I read this book when I was in my teens, but better late than never. I loved it and highly recommend it to everyone. I personally think that this should be required reading in schools, so that the kids realize their potential and strive to better themselves through every challenge. This way the children from the young age can create their own opportunities and take advantage of those opportunities in life. 

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  • Posted May 24, 2012

    Motivating and Inspiring

    This is an autobiography of Dr. Ben Carson who played a major part in the first successful separation of Siamese twins, who were joined at the back of the head. Raised an inner-city kid from Detroit by a mother with a third grade education, Dr. Ben Carson is a prime example of beating the odds. He has given many young children a second chance at life. His determination, honesty, and faith in God lead to his success as a neurosurgeon. His stories of God’s intervention in his life are truly amazing and inspiring. Some of these interventions included controlling his temper, help on a test he was unprepared for and even finding cash to pay bus fare. Dr. Ben Carson is descriptive in his writing, especially when talking about the surgeries he performed. This book is hard to put down and leaves you wanting to know what is going to happen next. This book has motivated me to do the best I can in everything I do. Dr. Ben Carson is a humble man who had dedicated his life not just to performing life changing surgeries but also to motivate youth, which is exemplified in this “THINK BIG” philosophy. This is a well written book that is a must read.

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