Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1987, pediatric neurosurgeon Carson performed a successful operation that separated two twins born joined at their heads. He has been recognized worldwide for his extraordinary ability to perform intricate medical procedures like intrauterine brain surgery in his dedication to saving lives. But, as he says in this spiritual memoir, he wasn't always so successful. Carson recounts his young life growing up fatherless and with limited opportunities in Detroit. The change in Carson's life came very early, when his mother decided that her children could succeed in spite of their circumstances. Carson began reading two books a week in the third grade and was soon so hungry for knowledge that he read anything he could get his hands on. He performed so well in high school that he was accepted at Yale, and he is now the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. Success, he says, is a matter of focusing on the big picture and not the details. So often when we concentrate on the tiny details of life, we forget that God has a larger purpose for us. Using anecdotes from his medical career and scattering biblical illustrations throughout, Carson asserts that we can get a glimpse of the big picture by viewing hardship as an advantage, overcoming a victim mentality and determining priorities. He proposes that if we stop periodically and ask ourselves three questions--When my life is over, what do I want to be remembered for? What do I want to be doing five, 10, and 20 years from now? What do I want to be sure I am not doing five, 10, and 20 years from now?--we will have an idea about the ways that the Big Picture can direct our lives. Carson's lively storytelling will capture the hearts of his readers. (Feb.)
Dr. Ben Carson is known as the originator of groundbreaking surgical procedures, a doctor who turns impossible hopes into joyous realities. He is known as well as a compassionate humanitarian who reaches beyond corporate boardrooms to touch the lives of inner-city kids.
Author Biography: Dr. Benjamin Carson is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital and the author of two best-selling books, Gifted Hands and Think Big. A widely respected role model, he shares motivational insights with inner-city kids and corporate executives alike. He serves on the corporate boards of Yale University and the Kellogg Company. He lives with his wife, Candy, and three sons in West Friendship, MD.;Gregg Lewis is a freelance writer with 25 years experience in the publishing industry. Gregg Lewis is an award-winning author or co-author of more than 40 books including Tom Landry: An Autobiography, The Big Picture with Dr. Ben Carson, Forgiving the Dead Man Walking with Debbie Morris, The Healing Connection with Dr. Harold Koenig, and the Game and the Glory with Michelle Akers. Gregg lives with his wife Deborah and their five children in Rome, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
The South African Twins--Why?
One day in January 1994 I received a long-distance call at work. 'I think you need to talk to this gentleman,' my office manager told me. So I picked up the phone.
'Dr. Benjamin Carson?' I could not place the accent, but having spent a year living and working in Australia, I immediately recognized the 'proper' British influence in the man's careful enunciation.
'This is Dr. Carson,' I told him.
'I am so pleased to speak to you, Dr. Carson,' the man said. 'My name is Dr. Samuel Mokgokong. I am professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of South Africa at Medunsa.' Now the accent fit.
'How may I help you?'
Dr. Mokgokong quickly explained that he had under his care a set of South African Siamese twins whose case seemed similar to that of the Binder twins, whom I had helped separate seven years earlier. Because of that successful surgery, Dr. Mokgokong was hoping I would be willing to consult with him and perhaps even participate in the separation of his patients.
I told him that I would be glad to consult with him if he could provide me with copies of his case records. That immediate response was prompted by more than just the usual professional courtesy. My experience with the Binder twins had not only been a major turning point, a defining moment in my professional career, it had been one of the greatest medical challenges I had ever known. At the time I had considered it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
And now, seven years later, from a call out of the blue and half a world away, I receive word about a second set of craniopagus Siamese twins. Of course I was interested. But I was not at all sure just how involved I should be or could be in a case as demanding and complex as this on the other side of the world.
Dr. Mokgokong informed me he would be making a trip to the United States within the month and could bring all the necessary records for me to review. I agreed to meet with him at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and we set a tentative date for his visit.
And so the South African neurosurgeon left Johannesburg in the heat of summer in the Southern Hemisphere to make his mid-winter journey to North America. Everything about him --- from his deep resonant voice to his quick smile --- conveyed such a friendly openness that I couldn't help but like Sam Mokgokong from the start. Slightly balding, about forty, he stood two or three inches short of my six feet yet outweighed me by more than fifty pounds. I could not help thinking that given his build and personality, he would make a wonderful African Santa Claus --- all he needed was a white beard.
We struck up an almost immediate friendship. When we began discussing his case, I was soon as impressed with him professionally as I was personally, for he asked the right questions and seemed to have arrived at most of the right conclusions already.
The South African twin sisters did indeed have many similarities with the Binder brothers. Nthabiseng and Mahlatse Makwaeba appeared smaller in the photos than the Binders had been, but they presented about the same degree of attachment at the back of their heads. Using the basic procedures we had followed with the Binder twins and drawing from the experience gained from that surgery, I believed there was a pretty fair chance both little girls could be saved.
Encouraged by my optimism, Sam asked if I would be willing to come to Medunsa to lead the team that would perform the operation. I hadn't been sure how I would react to this invitation when he had first called me. The operation on the Binder twins had taken months of careful planning, and our team had been composed of the best medical personnel Johns Hopkins had to offer, many of whom I had known, worked with, and operated alongside for years. Dr. Mokgokong assured me of the professional caliber of his colleagues, but I knew there was no way I could have the same level of trust operating among strangers with whom I had no personal history --- inside or outside of an operating room.
But there was another problem. When we had performed our unprecedented surgery on the Binder twins, Johns Hopkins Hospital, consistently voted the number-one medical facility in America, had placed its resources at our disposal. Would a hospital in Medunsa, South Africa, have what would be needed to pull off such a dangerous procedure? Did they even have all the equipment necessary?
Once again, Sam tried to reassure me. He insisted that whatever equipment they did not have, he would acquire --- if only he could make it known that I had agreed to head the operating team. As flattering as that was, I still was not completely convinced.
The more we talked and the harder Sam tried to persuade me, the better I began to understand what was being asked of me. And why. Sam told me how he had first learned of my work. One of his professional mentors back in 1987, a neurosurgeon named Dr. Robert Lipschitz, had cared for a set of Siamese twins around the time the Binder case had received so much publicity. Sam had heard my name at that time because Dr. Lipschitz had called and consulted with me before attempting an operation to separate his patients.
I remembered because Dr. Lipschitz and I had spoken long distance on more than one occasion --- both before and after his surgery following which one twin died and the other suffered significant neurological damage.
Sam admitted he had had no idea at the time that the 'Dr. Benjamin Carson' his friend and mentor was consulting with 'was also a black man.' When he had learned of my racial heritage some years later, Sam said he had taken a special interest in me and my career, and he had shortly thereafter read my autobiography, Gifted Hands. He had grown up under apartheid --- overcoming astronomical odds to get where he was professionally. So Sam had closely identified with the hardships I had experienced. He told me that he and many of his South African colleagues and students had also read my book and had found great inspiration in my story, my medical achievements, and my example.