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Gray Matter: A Neurosurgeon Discovers the Power of Prayer . . . One Patient at a Time

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A perfect blend of medical drama and spiritual insight, Gray Matter is a fascinating account of Dr. David Levy’s decision to begin asking his patients if he could pray for them before surgery. Some are thrilled. Some are skeptical. Some are hostile, and some are quite literally transformed by the request.
Each chapter focuses on a specific case, opening with a detailed description of the patient’s diagnosis and the procedure that will need to be performed, followed by the prayer...

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Gray Matter: A Neurosurgeon Discovers the Power of Prayer . . . One Patient at a Time

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Overview

A perfect blend of medical drama and spiritual insight, Gray Matter is a fascinating account of Dr. David Levy’s decision to begin asking his patients if he could pray for them before surgery. Some are thrilled. Some are skeptical. Some are hostile, and some are quite literally transformed by the request.
Each chapter focuses on a specific case, opening with a detailed description of the patient’s diagnosis and the procedure that will need to be performed, followed by the prayer “request.” From there, readers get to look over Dr. Levy’s shoulder as he performs the operation, and then we wait—right alongside Dr. Levy, the patients, and their families—to see the final results.
Dr. Levy’s musings on what successful and unsuccessful surgical results imply about God, faith, and the power of prayer are honest and insightful. As we watch him come to his ultimate conclusion that no matter what the results of the procedure are, “God is good,” we cannot help but be truly moved and inspired. Tyndale House Publishers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781414339757
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/21/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 151,356
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments....................xi
CHAPTER 1 Risk Factors....................1
CHAPTER 2 How I Began Praying with Patients....................21
CHAPTER 3 Introducing Spiritual Care....................49
CHAPTER 4 Skeptics....................69
CHAPTER 5 Facing My Colleagues....................91
CHAPTER 6 From Mechanic to Medical School....................113
CHAPTER 7 Forgiveness as a Cure....................131
CHAPTER 8 Paralyzed....................167
CHAPTER 9 The Girl at the Brink of Death....................195
CHAPTER 10 Snatched from Hell....................215
CHAPTER 11 When Complications Arise....................231
CHAPTER 12 Memorable Cases....................259
Epilogue....................289
Notes....................299
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First Chapter

GRAY MATTER

a neurosurgeon discovers the power of prayer ... one patient at a time
By DAVID LEVY JOEL KILPATRICK

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 David Levy and Joel Kilpatrick
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-3975-7


Chapter One

RISK FACTOR

Maria, the well-dressed businesswoman sitting in my office, had a brain aneurysm. One of the blood vessels in her brain had weakened, causing the vessel wall to balloon out in one place like a snake that has swallowed an egg. From the size and irregular shape of the aneurysm I had concluded that if not dealt with relatively quickly it might burst and kill her.

She was employed in high-level management and looked the part: she wore a black suit and heels, and an attaché case that appeared to be full of paperwork, presentations, and binders rested on the chair next to her. It looked as if she might be here on a lunch break between important meetings. I half expected her to say something like, "I've got ten minutes until my face-to-face with clients, Doc. Make it snappy." But I could see that this sudden and unexpected diagnosis was causing her concern—a brain aneurysm isn't exactly one of those things you put on your calendar and schedule into your life.

It was our first meeting. She had been referred to me a week earlier by the neurologist who had picked up on the aneurysm, an unexpected "catch" that might very well save Maria's life. Many brain problems don't announce themselves. Aneurysms, notoriously, give no warning; they hide in the brain until one day, when the blood pressure proves too great for the strength of the artery wall, they rupture and bleed, causing a tremendous headache, loss of consciousness—and eventual death. Sometimes, in the fortunate cases, the aneurysm will push against a nerve or brain structure and prompt some odd symptoms that might alert someone before a catastrophic rupture. In Maria's case, there hadn't even been a suspicion of an aneurysm. The MRI scan had been ordered for a completely different, minor concern. But like a video security system that happens to catch images of a wanted killer lurking in the background, the scan had detected this menace inside her skull.

My job was to fix it before it could do any real damage.

If you have a brain aneurysm less than seven millimeters in size, a quarter inch in diameter, the chance of it bleeding is relatively low, less than 2 percent per year. That means the chance of it not bleeding is greater than 98 percent every year, which is not a large risk. However, if it does bleed, the risk of death is high—30 percent of those whose aneurysms burst don't even reach the hospital alive. They die from the trauma of blood flooding the skull and having nowhere to exit. Of those who make it to the hospital, 30 percent end up with a major cognitive deficit of some sort, losing their ability to talk or walk or recall information or even recognize loved ones. They are not able to resume their previous lifestyles. These are the kinds of facts I have to lay out for patients when discussing whether or not to treat them. I have to tell them whether I think that aneurysm or other malformation we see on the scan has a good chance of bursting or harming them and, if so, how to fix it before it does.

As for Maria, I felt she had no choice. The nine-millimeter aneurysm had multiple weak spots, or "daughter sacks," and was large, unstable, and unpredictable. It had to be treated.

We sat across from each other in my exam room at the San Diego hospital where I practice. The room is nothing special, your typical ten-by-ten medical box with a sink, cabinet, and window looking out on the trees in the parking lot. Nothing about it bespeaks comfort. Only my own nature photography hanging on the walls sets it apart from any other room in any other medical facility in America. Lining one wall are seats for the patient and family, though there was nobody here today but Maria and me. Just off to one side is a rolling computer stand into which I enter data and can review a patient's scans. Now I turned the computer screen around and showed Maria a 3-D rotational picture of the aneurysm from the CT angiogram. The multilobed, balloon-shaped aneurysm arose from her smooth brain artery like a phantom from a drainpipe.

"Let me lay out how I would approach this technically," I said. On the wall behind me was a whiteboard on which I drew a picture of her aneurysm and then detailed the treatment plan, to help her understand what would be taking place inside her skull while she was asleep. After a moment, I swiveled gently away from the board to face her. This was an important moment for both of us. In spite of her professional demeanor, Maria was now giving all the visible signals of agitation: arms and legs held uncomfortably tight against her body, eyes and facial muscles tense and alert. She kept making quick motions with her head and unconscious repetitive movements with her fingers. If she was trying to hold the anxiety in, it wasn't working; the tension was spilling out. Maria seemed to be wondering if her life, so full of the things she had hoped and planned for, was coming to an end. It was as if someone had slammed on the brakes and turned sharply into a blind alley called brain surgery.

As the neurosurgeon walking her through this difficult news, I had a complex set of tasks to perform. I had to ease her mind about the upcoming procedure, giving her the confidence that it could be successful and that she could come out of it without any loss of function. I also had to be honest with her about the level of risk it involved—of blindness, coma, paralysis, or death—so that she could properly set her own expectations and those of her family. We could not avoid the possibility that, as with any surgery in so delicate an area, things could go terribly wrong. I had to convey all this in a calm, honest, and straightforward way—to someone who really didn't want to hear it.

So much of a doctor's job is in not just diagnosis but in demeanor and presentation as well—the way you come across as you speak, the way you comport yourself, the way you relate to patients. Are your eyes steady, or are they shifty? Do you look into their eyes or over their shoulders or around the room? What does this subtly tell them about their prognosis? What can they read into your body language, your hand motions, your almost imperceptible movements of facial muscles, your ease or lack of ease, and your willingness to engage with them as persons, not just medical problems? Pre-surgical consultation is a dance. You have to practice it, becoming light on your feet and making the right moves in sequence, for it to seem graceful to you and to your patients. Fortunately, I have a calm manner that seems to set people at ease. Still, it takes a great deal of experience to make bedside manner seem effortless, and ultimately that is what you want to achieve: a sense of peace and confidence in spite of a bad diagnosis.

I explained the risks and benefits of intervention, and the risks and benefits of doing nothing. She nodded and followed along, taking it all in. As she looked at me, her eyes pleading for good news, I knew she was waiting for me to tell her that there was a pill or an easy treatment—something quick and painless that would solve her problem. Most patients believe, or at least hope, that a doctor can do anything. We are the modern medical high priests, called upon in almost spiritual fashion to rid people of the inconveniences of illness and to heal on demand. At least, that's how people treat us and how, especially in my field of neurosurgery, we often want to be treated. But I had made a decision to give up the role of high priest, even if I still looked like one in my white coat and light blue scrubs—the standard, intimidating outfit that helps to signal the surgeon's separation from and, technically speaking, superiority to the people around us. Yes, I am a highly trained medical professional, but I am not my patients' ultimate healer, and I certainly am not their god. I believe that position is already taken.

I glanced over her scans one more time, knowing full well that, with her, there was only one way to go.

"Maria, I recommend we take care of that aneurysm," I said. "It is the type we call a berry aneurysm because it has a small 'neck' holding it to the parent vessel. The aneurysm itself is round like a berry. Unfortunately, this kind has thin walls, and your thin walls have thinner walls called 'daughter sacks,' which I believe make it more likely to burst."

She didn't even exhale when I said this. It was as though she were holding her breath, waiting for the good part. She wanted me to tell her that she would be fine, but I could not promise that. Looking at this woman in the prime of her life and career, I was struck yet again by the fact that people with nothing outwardly wrong can have a ticking time bomb inside their heads.

I felt compassion and a familiar sense of peace. It would be tricky, but I had the skills to help her, and I loved using those skills; we were going to mend this thing so she could get on with the rest of her life. I wanted nothing more than to help put this incident firmly in her past. Ideally, she wouldn't see the inside of a hospital again until we did follow-up scans several months later to monitor her progress. Unlike other relationships, most surgeon-patient relationships should be temporary. We come together, solve the problem, and then go our separate ways.

"Can it wait?" she finally asked.

Statistically, it could; an aneurysm of that size had been there a long time. But those who have been in the business long enough have seen people bleed before they can get into surgery.

"If your aneurysm were perfectly round or smaller, I would have no problem waiting," I said. "We could wait a month—but I don't feel good about the size and shape."

She nodded slightly. "Then I guess that's what I have to do," she said. "I'm sure I'll have more questions when I've had a chance to digest this and research it a little more, and after I tell my family."

We both sat quietly as she considered again what I had said. After a moment, I leaned forward slightly and did what had become customary for me, something that I had never seen another doctor do, something that in a single moment stripped me of any semblance of godlike status.

"I know that I have given you a lot to think about. Would it be okay if I said a prayer with you?" I asked in a tone that made it safe for her to say no if she wished. I had asked earlier about her spiritual history and learned that her parents were Catholic but that she did not attend services.

She tilted her head to one side and looked at me curiously, as if reading a financial report she didn't understand. She relaxed slightly and nodded.

"Uh, okay," she said, a little confused. "Fine."

I slid my rolling chair over to her and slowly reached out my hand. As surprised as she was, she instinctively reached out with both of her hands and grabbed it as if grabbing a lifeline. I bowed my head to give her privacy. Then I began to pray.

"God, thank you for Maria and for allowing us to find this problem," I said. "This is a surprise to us but no surprise to you. I am asking that this aneurysm not cause her any problems until we can fix it. Please give her peace and good sleep leading up to this surgery. God, we are asking you for success for this surgery. Give her the sense that you are with her. In Jesus' name, Amen."

I opened my eyes after the short prayer. Maria's chin was on her chest and she was crying softly. Tears had made water marks on her skirt. Peace seemed to blanket her, and she was tranquil and centered, like a visitor in a church or other sacred place. Gone were the extraneous movements born of high stress. She breathed deeply and seemed to exhale the concerns that had nearly overtaken her. This sudden change might have surprised me if I hadn't seen it happen so many times with so many other people.

After a few moments she looked up at me. Tears were blending with her mascara and running down her cheeks in gray streaks. She nodded her affirmation of the prayer and dabbed her nose with a tissue that I handed her from the box I keep on my computer stand.

"Thank you, Dr. Levy," she said with a sparkle in her eyes that spoke of calm and hope. "I've never prayed with a doctor before."

I smiled. I'd heard that many times. This simple act had done what no conversation, no psychological analysis, no recitation of the medical facts had ever done, in my experience. She had received something no insurance company, medical provider, surgeon, or drug could offer: confidence and peace from a simple prayer. And even, I believe, a welcome touch from God.

Maria's surgery went flawlessly—until the very end. Then a tear in the aneurysm caused blood to flow into the spaces of her brain with every heartbeat. I feared the worst; we might not be able to save her.

With my crew waiting for instructions, I called for the specific tools I would need to repair the breach. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion, and I felt my frustration rise. There is nothing surgeons hate more than surprises, especially the kind that could rob this family of a wife and mother.

I guided my instruments up the carotid artery just below the bleeding aneurysm and tried another method to stop the bleeding from the potentially fatal tear in the vessel wall. After five minutes of intensely focused work, I injected dye to see if I had succeeded. My heart sank as I watched the screen and saw the dye leak from the top of the aneurysm as she continued to bleed. She had been bleeding into the brain for more than five minutes. Would she survive? And if she did, what would she be like?

It took several more minutes of delicate, painstaking work and periods of agonizing waiting, but finally the bleeding stopped. It took another hour to determine that Maria would survive the bleed and had not suffered a major stroke; she was moving her arms and legs and was talking. As she went into the intensive care unit and continued to improve over the next few days, I thanked God for answering the prayer that Maria and I had prayed together in my exam room. I believe it made the difference for Maria—and for me.

Because in neurosurgery, you never know what might happen.

* * *

I have no way of knowing exactly how many nurses, doctors, surgeons, or even other neurosurgeons take the spiritual lives of their patients seriously or pray with their patients as I do. It's certainly not a subject that comes up at medical conferences or with coworkers in the elevator or hospital cafeteria. In fact, if spirituality is not introduced in a way that honors the patient and his or her faith, it can lead to ostracism by the medical community or worse—discipline of some kind. The role of prayer in health care is itself a gray matter.

Yet both doctors and patients seem to recognize that some crucial component of patient care is often missing. Though spirituality is almost completely absent from medical interactions, a large majority (75 percent) of more than a thousand physicians surveyed agree that religion and spirituality are important in helping patients cope and in giving them a positive state of mind.

Patients, too, place a high value on religion and spirituality, particularly in the midst of an illness. In one study, 82 percent of 124 consecutive ophthalmology patients at Johns Hopkins University said prayer was important to their sense of well-being.

As I have addressed patients' spirituality and made prayer a regular part of my patient interactions, the response has been impressive. I have seen lives brought to a level of spiritual, emotional, and physical health that my patients had never enjoyed before. In the process, I have learned two important things: that there is a limit to what I can do as a highly trained and experienced surgeon and that there is no limit to what God can do to touch a person emotionally and spiritually, not just physically.

My goal as a professional is to use my skills and knowledge to help people have the best lives possible, for as long as possible. This includes emotional as well as physical health, because the two are interrelated. Emotions can create health or cause disease, and spiritual health affects emotional health. Laughter and joy are known to restore and encourage health, while bitterness and resentment promote disease. Forgiveness has well-documented health benefits. One's concept of God can cause ongoing joy or ongoing anxiety. These issues are not incidental but are central to health.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from GRAY MATTER by DAVID LEVY JOEL KILPATRICK Copyright © 2011 by David Levy and Joel Kilpatrick. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. 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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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 27, 2011

    God's Gift of Prayer

    Author David Levy's book is very insightful on prayer and his approach on how to pray. The renowned neurosurgeon faced down his own inner critics only to face down his colleagues and found his threshold to courage as a new foundation. Dr. Levy then brings in his approach of asking patients if there might be someone they need to forgive. As risky as that might be for a physician, the results Dr. Levy has reported in changed lives, let alone surgical successes, is amazing. There are several stories shared of how God answered Dr. Levy's prayers during his surgical procedures, in ways that it was only God being the miraculous. Dr. Levy is quick to point out that not every procedure is 100% positive just because of prayer, but the guidance of God's peace and wisdom is a tremendous help, to both he and the patient and family. This is an excellent book for all to read on both the functional and inspirational use of prayer in every day life.

    This was a book I reviewed for Tyndale House Publishers.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 23, 2014

    Excellent read!

    This is an excellent book. It is an autobiography as well as a treatise on the power of forgiveness in healing. Could not put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 26, 2012

    Dr. Levy, San Diego neurosurgeon, has written an incredibly insp

    Dr. Levy, San Diego neurosurgeon, has written an incredibly inspiring
    book regarding his experiences in praying with and for his patients.
    Gray Matter is a fast-moving, easy-reading, humbly-written book that you
    will not be able to put down. With amazing ease, Dr. Levy explains and
    simplifies the most intricate and delicate anatomy, physiology,
    functions and vasculature of his favorite surgical field (the human
    brain) so that his readers feel as though they are getting a front-seat
    sneak preview of the brain by way of a camera on the tip of a catheter.
    Join him as he wields his sophisticated equipment though the maze of
    whisper-thin arteries and veins, the ultimate goal being tangled or
    bubbled regions on the vessels...areas which may or not be friable or
    ready to burst, but which must be repaired or removed. Learn with him
    about humility as he struggles with his decision to pray for his
    patients prior to surgery. As a nurse, I enjoyed reading about the
    "powerful and intimidating RN", who was simply starting an IV
    on the first patient he chose to pray with. A highly skilled surgeon
    intimidated by a nurse? A physician who wants to pray for his patient
    before a surgery? Is there such a man? We do see them, but all too
    infrequently. He discusses his plan to pray with a particular patient
    in the "pre-op" prior to the surgery in which he will thread a
    catheter through a large vein in the leg and then onward and upward to
    the very blood vessels which feed the patients' memory, movement,
    feeling, emotions--In fact, everything which makes that person who he
    is. With honesty humility (peppered with humor), he invites you to come
    along as he ponders the pros and cons of this venture into prayer in the
    pre-op room...the "Grand Central Station" of the operating
    suites and surrounding departments. No one has ever seen the likes of
    it! Eventually, He comes to realize that prayer is powerful
    indeed...then God takes him a step closer to Him and to trusting Him for
    more. In his book, Dr. Levy says that "learning the power of prayer
    led him to discover the power of forgiveness." Recognizing that
    bitterness can be the source of many health problems, he chose to obey
    God's mandate by beginning another step in helping his patients. He
    strived to bring them to healing in a way that required no
    instruments--only his belief in a powerful, loving and forgiving
    Creator. He soon was praying for patients, and even their family
    members, in his office and sometimes after his lunch time. He led them
    down the long pathway toward the healing of their damaged
    emotions...those which can steal joy and health, ruin the immune system
    and often destroy lives. The revelations of these incidents leave the
    reader astounded and grateful to our Lord and to this physician who
    chose to take a higher road in his profession, despite what others in
    his medical community may think. He also reveals in a painful soliloquy
    his fears and anger when some of his prayers were not answered. He had
    already acknowledged that he, as a doctor, was not God and that the Lord
    had miraculously brought many of his patients though their surgeries and
    recoveries. However, prayers not answered as he expected caused him much
    anguish. He relates these feelings in such a way as to cause the reader
    to sob right along with him. Particularly emotional is the chapter in
    which he relates leading a patient, whose surgery was unsuccessful, in a
    prayer of forgiveness a year later for himself (the surgeon). Something
    had gone terribly wrong and his patient, once a strong, virile man, but
    now an angry, thin and frail quadriplegic, joined him in a prayer that
    will break your heart and bring you to your knees. This book is the
    epitome of what we all should be...ready and willing to reach out to
    others as God leads. I learned much about myself while reading this book
    and quite frankly, saw much of myself, seeing how poorly I deal with my
    own inadequacies. God is a master at helping us to reach beyond
    ourselves to do His bidding and bring others into that perfect and
    loving relationship with Him. I highly suggest that you read this book.
    You don't need to be in the medical profession to understand the medical
    and surgical issues dealt with and as a child of God, you will revel in
    the exciting testimonies of a man who not only knows his God, but knows
    his Messiah, too!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 8, 2011

    Heartwarming & a Great Read!!

    I finished a book about a month ago entitled: Gray Matter. This book is by Dr. David Levy. Dr. Levy decides he is going to ask his patients if he can pray with them before surgery. With the ever growing difference of religion in the world, it is not an easy task. Some patients are accepting and agree, some are surprised, and some are just downright resistant. However the outcome of their reaction maybe, the Dr. still says a silent prayer for each patient before he tries to heal them. Dr. Levy braves the storm of some very angered patients, and coworkers who question his new found work ethic. Some are surprised that he would venture down this road, after all most Dr.'s know that science and religion don't mix well at all. That doesn't stop the Dr. from doing what he feels is right in his heart.












    I thought this book was very interesting. To see the reactions of some people, and how just offering a simple prayer can really offend them.






    I think this book could be for any reader. Those who believe in kindness and love. Or those who believe that the power of prayer can go a long way. Whatever your case may be, this is still a heart warming story of compassion.












    *I received this book from Tyndale Publishing House for being a Book Blogger.*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 5, 2011

    Fascinating read about a fascinating doctor!

    Dr. David Levy is an endovascular neurosurgeon who deals with a lot of life threatening cases in the operating room. But his healing doesn't begin in the OR. He prays with patients - in his clinic, right before surgery, and after surgery. And he has found that communicating with God brings better surgical outcomes. He has also found that many of the symptoms that people carry are psychosomatic - or, as the dictionary defines it, "caused by or notably influenced by emotional factors."

    This is a fascinating account of a doctor who operates in a very different way than most doctors. Working for a neurosurgeon myself, I could identify with a lot of the issues that Dr. Levy talks about - those dealing with the patients themselves, and some of the illnesses. I was very impressed by the manner in which Dr. Levy treats his patients. He realizes that it is not only the illness that needs to be treated, but also the underlying emotional/spiritual issues. I think he is the type of doctor that anyone would love to have - man of God, compassionate, and highly knowledgeable. I would definitely recommend this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 26, 2011

    Enjoyable and Powerful

    Though Gray Matter started a bit slow, I was hooked before long and became quite emotional when reading about some of the more serious cases. But more than discussing prayer and neurosurgery, Gray Matter encourages readers to really look at how God works in ordinary lives and ordinary moments. I can see it as a call to be bolder and braver when it comes to my own faith, to trust in God more fully, and to reconsider prayer's powerful benefits. Gray Matter is an enjoyable, informative read for anyone who is willing to look at the greatness of God and the power of prayer.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 23, 2011

    Inside a Neurosurgeon's Head

    When I first picked up Gray Matter I thought the author must have been very wordy since it is a 320 page book. I thought how could any one write such a lengthy book on just saying a short prayer with people.

    I was surprised to find I was wrong and how much I enjoyed the book. He didn't talk about the prayer and how it helped in a more general sense, but we got to see a slice into the life of a neurosurgeon. Dr. Levy takes you on a journey into the brain and some of the delicate procedures he preforms on a routine basis, even though to his patients it is nothing but routine.

    We meet his patients from an elderly lady to a toddler and everyone in between. I almost felt like I was holding my breath at times when he was describing surgeries. His writing style introduced us to his patients, and I was holding my breath as he was taking us into the ER with him.

    I loved how he described how forgiveness can make a huge difference in healing once people decided to let others off the hook. While their unforgiveness may have seemed to be a totally separate issue, many times once the person quit being so bitter they improved in their physical health.

    Dr. Levy doesn't shy away from the cases that were hard for him to accept. He does what he can, but that doesn't always mean his surgeries go perfectly. I thought it was very refreshing to hear a doctor talk about the cases where he felt he should have done something differently. It gave me a different perspective on doctors in general.

    I couldn't put this book down, but that didn't mean it was an easy read. Some of the issues contained were a bit heavier than light hearted reading, but the book is very much worth reading and I do recommend it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 7, 2011

    Inspirational!

    A great read. Once you start you won't want to put it down. Dr. Levy is a Jewish-born Christian neurosurgeon. He finds himself convicted to pray for his patients before their surgeries. This book is about his experiences in introducing prayer to his practice, and sharing it's results for his patients as well as himself.
    Dr. Levy's stories are fantastic, it's hard to put the book down. He gives us insight into his career as a neurosurgeon and tells us about the difference prayer makes in one's life. He also talks about when things don't go our way. This book is heart wrenching but precious.
    I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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  • Posted June 6, 2011

    An Enjoyable Read.

    In Gray Matter by Dr. David Levy we receive an inside look at the steps Dr. Levy took to introduce prayer into his practice as a Neurosurgeon. He introduces his patients to the power of forgiveness and the healing that can come by overcoming bitterness. I found it surprisingly enjoyable to read of the stories of different patients and how even those without faith were touched and transformed by forgiveness and prayer.

    I normally don't read this kind of book. Primarily because I tend to get pretty emotional when I read or hear about people dying and medical books often involve people dying. But, I liked the idea of reading about how prayer interfaces with the medical community. Even though I appreciated the stories, I realized again that medical books are just not for me. I often read as I'm rocking our baby to sleep and these stories put me on the edge of my chair and made my blood pressure go up just when I was needing to be calm and soothing. I read to relax and reading about the stressful situations these families were encountering wasn't very relaxing. It was intriguing, but not relaxing. I kept thinking that I had some sort of brain aneurysm. The cases Dr. Levy deals with are very technical and unusual, but reading the stories made me feel like all my loved ones were going to end up needing brain surgery.

    My only critique of this book is that I'm a little unsure about the intended audience for this book. Is it for medical personnel who are interested in adding a spiritual component to their practice? Or, is it for Christians who might be interested in how faith intersects with the medical community? I think both audiences might enjoy this book but the writing could have focused on one or the other to give it a bit more clarity. I think this would be a great graduation gift for a Christian doctor.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale as part of the Tyndlae Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review.

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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    Definite page turner - Intriguing and Inspirational

    Prayer is the last thing a patient might expect to receive from their surgeon prior to brain surgery, but that's exactly what Dr David Levy was compelled to offer. Through compelling and personal stories, Dr Levy explains how and why he took the risk of putting his reputation at stake with his patients, colleagues, and medical staff, and how it transformed his practice and his life. He reveals the mind of a highly trained surgeon and the procedures of the intricate and high risk surgeries he performs. I found these glimpses into his medical practice fascinating. He openly and honestly shares his heart for his patients' well-being, both physically and spiritually. I laughed and I cried (for real - actual tears). As he shared his journey, I was challenged to contemplate my own ability to live with the courage to do what's right in my relationship with others and with God. 'Gray Matter' is interesting, educational, and inspirational. Thank you, Dr Levy, for sharing your story and your exceptional life with us. Thank you, Joel Kilpatrick, for making Dr Levy's story so compelling and interesting to read; truly a page turner. Well worth recommending and sharing with others.

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  • Posted April 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A spiritual journey through the human brain

    Gray Matter is a spiritual journey through the human brain setting precedent into a new realm of medical recovery, using many personal insights into the realm of humanity through science and prayer.

    Dr. Levy feels at the top of his game, he is a perfectionist who can do no wrong and being such, he feels he is not giving his all to his patients and begins to entertain thoughts of introducing prayer to his patients. Tentatively at first, he approaches prayer like it were a disease even though his motives are true, he is overcome with feelings of misgivings as he worries about his career and his reputation if word were to leak that he helped treat his patients with prayer. However, as he gains confidence in this new approach and sees how it can actually change an outcome for the better, he throws caution to the wind and he finds that he is not ostracized and shares God with any of those who may ask.

    All is not a steady journey however, David's faith is tested many times throughout the course of his spiritual awakening and after a very devastating event occurs with one of his patient's, he's not sure if he has the strength to hold himself up, let alone those of the family. With skill and patience and prayer, David is able to overcome all obstacles and stand united before God.

    If your at all queasy reading surgical procedures then steer clear of this book, everything is explained in graphic detail from the simplest procedures to the most complex. I was squeamish a few times and had to set it aside for a while. I liked Dr. Levy's human side, his worry, even though he is a neurological surgeon, he has fears and worries just like everyone else and I enjoyed seeing that human approach. I like the follow up stories that Dr. Levy shared throughout the story and how prayer had worked for them and their lives. I felt though that David was a bit stiff in his approach, and would've seen him loosen up over time, but with his high-end line of work, I am sure relaxation is something hard sought for, even with the best of intentions. I recommend this to anyone about to have a major operation and looking for spiritual guidance, as well as anyone who enjoys spiritual stories in which prayer is used as a healing purpose.

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  • Posted March 28, 2011

    Inspiring and challenging

    This was an excellent story of how prayer not only changes the people you pray for, but also changes the person praying. Being a healthcare professional myself, the stories challenged me to incorporate more of my own faith into my practice. The book also gives us a glimpse into a Dr. Levy's personal transformation throughout his career, not only as a skilled surgeon, but as a man of faith. I smiled, I cried, and was reminded of my continuing journey through resentment, forgiveness, and freedom. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted March 10, 2011

    Gray Matter

    Gray Matter, by David Levy, MD

    Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review.

    This book is about David Levy's journey of faith encounters his work. As a brain surgeon, David feels God's prompting to start to pray with patients, before and after surgery, and how he obeys God in this. This book is the account of what happens when prayer and surgery mix. Throughout this journey, we discover that 'God is good' regardless of the results of the life situations we find ourselves facing - whether things go the way we want them to or not.

    I was a bit concerned at the start of this book that the author would use complicated medical language which would make it hard for me to follow, however although there are medical terms used, they are explained in a way that is accessible and relatively easy to understand.

    I really enjoyed reading this - something completely different from what I would normally read. However I will say one thing - the binding of the copy of this book that I received was appalling. Having read the book once, the entire introduction has fallen out, and the first four chapters are only just staying in!!! Not what I expect from a new book. However, apart from this, it was an enjoyable and challenging read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2011

    Good Book!

    In Gray Matter, Dr. Levy takes us on a spiritual journey to discover the power of prayer. The book itself is his own testimony to the awesome acts of our Great God! Within the covers of the book we meet real people facing real medical crisis'. We meet people often at their lowest points and witness first hand the miraculous healing power of our Heavenly Father. The description and explanations of real illnesses and medical procedures is captivating, but not so full of medical terminology that a layperson like myself can't understand. Dr. Levy talks openly about his own fears and reservations as he begins to offer praying with his patients. Throughout the book we learn the outcome of the treatments and procedures that these patients have been through. Just like in real life, God doesn't always answer our prayers the way that we think He should. But we come to see that God's timing is always perfect, and His plans are so much better than our own. We realize that when facing a health crisis that it doesn't matter if God chooses to heal us here, on earth, or if he chooses to heal us when we get to Heaven. Either way, we win! It's wonderful to read this book in Dr. Levy's own words, and to see that even a great physician still has respect for and gives honor to THE Great Physician!






    Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review. This review is completely my own opinion.

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

    a must!

    i received this book from the mail a few days before Christmas, it took me awhile to post my review since childminding and Christmas and holiday preparations got in the way of my reading.

    "Highly respected neurosurgeon Dr. David Levy pens Gray Matter, sharing his personal stories of faith, forgiveness, and the power of prayer.

    Gray Matter.the story of one doctor's journey to combining medicine and faith. The book provides a refreshingly candid and revealing glimpse into the heart and mind of a neurosurgeon - those divinely fallible beings we sometimes expect to play God."
    ~ Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

    My two-cent's worth:

    Reading this book brought me back to several years ago, when I was addicted to the gripping and heart-stopping medical drama, e.r.! The excerpts from Dr. Gray's session with his patients are much like watching an episode from my favorite t.v. show but with an interesting twist. Dr. Gray, aside from treating his patients aneurysm with superb and almost perfect precision, also lends an ear to listen to these patients woes and sufferings, and surprisingly, say a pray for them after each consultation or right before an operation. It was written in such a clear, conversation-like manner that reading it seemed more like having a chat with him over a cup of coffee. Now if I will be having a conversation with a neurosurgeon anytime soon, I'd consider that such a privilege. A glimpse to the otherwise sterile world of probably the most sophisticated branch of medicine, which is neurosurgery, is quite a refreshing revelation and to learn that a doctor is intertwining his profession with his faith and would dare praying for a patient in front of his colleagues and patient's family is such a pleasant surprise. I for one would much appreciate it if my obgyne would've prayed for me and my baby's safety before I was carted to the operating room for a c-section. And I will be relieved to know that my doctor does believe in God than to be playing God. And just to quote Dr. Gray:

    "You may be looking to me for your outcome, because of my skills my confidence, and hopefully a glowing recommendation from other doctors, bit I am willing to admit before you and your family that I am not God. I am good at what I do, but ultimately, I cannot control the outcome of your surgery. Whether we like to admit it or not, no matter how simple or complex the case, my skills are not enough. We need God's help, and I am not ashamed to ask for it."

    Reading it will leave you feeling lighthearted, with renewed faith in God, although it isn't at all preachy and the hope that the next time you visit your doctor for an appointment he will close his eyes and say a prayer on your behalf. I give this book a prime spot in jared's little corner, which is my equivalent to 5 stars. This is co-written by Joel Kilpatrick and shall be hitting the shelves on March, 2011.

    I was not compensated for this post, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or ARC for review purposes.

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  • Posted January 20, 2011

    A Must Read!

    Tyndale House Publishers sent me an Advanced Reader's Copy of Gray Matter for the purpose of review. This book was written by highly respected Neurosurgeon, Dr. David Levy who practices both nuero and endovascular surgery in San Diego, California. His book is to be released in March of this year.

    I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book. I've been interested in the medical field ever since I was a little girl. I once thought I might be a surgical nurse "when I grew up" and was addicted to the television show ER in it's beginning. Social Work ended up being my career when I worked outside of the home and I loved the interaction with physicians and psychiatrists.

    Gray Matter is Dr. Levy's story of his decision to be bold about his faith in an area where if the medical outcome is good it was a result of good medicine and if the outcome is bad then it was surely God's fault. Here's a description of the book from the back cover:

    "A perfect blend of pulse-racing medical drama and profound spiritual insight, Gray Matter not only provides a fascinating glimpse into the elite field of neurosurgery as we watch Levy perform some of the most challenging surgical procedures in medicine today; it also provides a refreshingly candid and revealing glimpse into the heart and mind of a neurosurgeon - those divinely fallible beings we sometimes expect to play God."

    In each chapter the reader hears the story of a different patient's diagnosis and Dr. Levy's experience of introducing prayer as part of his pre and post-op interactions with the patient. Along the way the reader gets an inside look at the spiritual transformation that takes place in Dr. Levy's life as well as the amazing journey of some of his patients.

    In Gray Matter Dr. Levy speaks very candidly about his personal struggles with his bold approach in combining his faith with his practice of medicine. As you read each chapter you begin to be encouraged to be bold in your own faith as you witness the doctor's faith grow despite the loss of some patients and the rejection of others to his offer of prayer. Here's the doctor's thoughts after a most intense experience with a two year old patient:

    "Never again could I accuse God of being unfeeling or uncaring, because now I was certain I had no grounds to do so. I would never have all the information; He did. My job was to work with a much skill as I could and declare that God was good in every circumstance. I might not like what He did, or understand why He would let someone suffer or die - but that was His decision, not mine."

    The book is very well written. It is really the perfect blend of the technical medical talk (Dr. Levy does an excellent job of taking the reader step by step through the surgery explaining the technical aspects in a way that the average person learns something.) and expert story telling. You will be hooked from chapter to chapter. I walked away greatly encouraged and thanking God that he has men and women like Dr. Levy in the medical field.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    Fascinating and inspiring...

    This book is an inpiring account of how a highly specialized surgeon began praying with his patients. This was unheard of in the medical community, and the author shares his concerns of what others would think if they knew he prayed with his patients. The author is open and honest as he shares the struggles he encountered in his decision to pray with patients and the outcomes of his decisions to pray with his patients.

    The author is authentic as he does not pull any punches with his spiritual journey to know Jesus and praying with patients. The author is brutally honest with his concerns, mistakes, and struggle to pray with his patients as he feared what others would think, especially those in the medical profession. Would he ruin his reputation? Would his patients begin to doubt his abilities, if he asked to pray with them? The author put his career on the line when he began praying with patients. Why? Why risk so much? The author literally takes you through the power of prayer. Yet, the author goes even further. The author ultimately focuses on the spiritual health as well as the physical health of his patients. Again, something unheard of in the medical community. The author's courage is truly inspiring.

    In addition to the author's journey in praying with patients, the book also reads as a suspense novel. The author provides true accounts of dangerous brain surgeries, as a neurosurgeon, and describes the stress of complications and not knowing if the patient will be the same afterwards. Will the patient have a stroke, lose precious memories, or even die? Or, will the surgery be a complete success? Facsinating accounts of the intricate nature of brain surgery balances the book, making it highly readable.

    I highly recommend this book. Not only is it a good read, but also for inspiration to truly live your life for God. What happened when someone truly lays everything down for God?

    Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book for me to review. This in no way influenced my review.

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  • Posted December 22, 2010

    Thoughtful reflection on messy spirituality in the real world

    Gray Matter is arranged in a way that we can follow him as his prayer and medical vocations merged together. He begins by explaining what it is that a neurosurgeon does, the absence of prayer in most medical settings (especially among doctors), and the challenges of introducing prayer into his job ranging from loss of reputation to potential lawsuits. He then walks us through his first nervous attempts, to praying in front of nurses, then progressively to when it becomes so much a part of his practice that he does so in other hospitals with doctors who do not know him except as a medical expert. Along the way we also get a healthy range of experiences of patients and their families; though most patients either passively or excitedly allow him to pray with them, there are, not surprisingly, some who reacted quite strongly against his bringing it up. As he gets more comfortable as a praying doctor, he even begins to talk about the role forgiveness, bitterness, and resentment all have in our ability to recover or not. All the while, he is quite aware that he is neither a trained psychologist nor clergyman and he writes about the challenges of not crossing lines.

    My favorite feature of Gray Matter is that he is quite clear about the question of does prayer "work"? His answer is a clear sometimes. Not all of his patients recovered. Some still died, some experienced terrible tragedies during and following surgery, while others experienced remarkable recoveries. He does not prove that prayer works, at least not in the sense that we may want it to. He does share his experiences that make it apparent that our spiritual lives are not divorced from our physical ones. As Dr. Levy phrases it, "God wants to be involved in the details" (p. 238).

    I really enjoyed this book, even more than I thought that I would. I happily recommend this book to anyone who is it all interested healing and/or prayer. As in all our lives, the results of Dr. Levy's spiritual-medical integration are messy. I think, that is the real strength of this book, there is no prescription, "how to" guide, or anything other than a sense that he is describing real life. Five out of five.

    -

    In accordance with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission,I am required to mention that Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review. Sending me a free copy in no way is compensation for, or a guarantee of, a positive review.

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  • Posted December 22, 2010

    A touching and encouraging book!

    "That sense of challenge is also a major reason that I pray - not because I lock confidence but because I am realistic about what I am able to do and confident about what God is able to do." (p. 14)

    Dr. David Levy's statement on page 14 beautifully encapsulates the humble servant's heart with which he serves his patients and his Lord. Gray Matter is one of the most interesting, encouraging and thoughtful books that I have read in a very long while. Dr. Levy's obedience to God in the matter of praying with his patients has had far-reaching benefits in physical, spiritual and emotional ways that far surpass what Dr. Levy ever imagined possible! Isn't that just like God? He is so awesome!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of what God is doing in Dr. Levy's life as his ministers to his patients! He is very candid about his personal fears and reservations that plagued him as he began the practice of praying with his patients. He shares accounts with people from all walks of life, and the fact that most of his patients have experienced profound effects from inviting God into this critical moment in their lives. Dr. Levy has also experienced both personal and professional blessings from his obedience to God's direction to pray for his patients. It is touching and humbling to read such a personal account of one man's devout obedience to God in a very challenging professional setting.

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  • Posted December 19, 2010

    Very interesting read

    Tyndale Media recently sent me an Advance Reader Copy of this book. I found it fascinating. Dr. Levy talks about how he started to pray with his patients and the results that he saw from this. I believe in the power of prayer, and it is wonderful to see a book that tries to portray the wonderful things that can happen with prayer. We learn about many patients that Dr. Levy has treated and how he has helped their lives. He doesn't only treat the physical problems of the patients, but he also tries to treat the emotional and spiritual problems as well. I like that he talks about the surgerys that don't work as well as the surgerys that do. He shares the struggles that he has and the conclusions that he comes to when things don't work out as expected. I also found the descriptions of the problems that he treated very interesting. He keeps it at a low enough level that anyone can follow along. All in all, I thought that it was a very interesting, insightful book.

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