The Healing Blade: Neurosurgery on the Edge of Life and Death

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"Now, for a period of up to an hour, no blood and therefore no oxygen would reach any cell in the patient's brain or any other organ. 'You know the technical term for that condition,' one of the neurosurgeons had quipped, 'it's called death.'" This is not the beginning of a sci-fi adventure. It is real science. The procedure, nicknamed "standstill," is occurring, with more frequency and more success, at one of the best hospitals of its kind on earth: the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. The doctor who turns medical science into high art
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Overview

"Now, for a period of up to an hour, no blood and therefore no oxygen would reach any cell in the patient's brain or any other organ. 'You know the technical term for that condition,' one of the neurosurgeons had quipped, 'it's called death.'" This is not the beginning of a sci-fi adventure. It is real science. The procedure, nicknamed "standstill," is occurring, with more frequency and more success, at one of the best hospitals of its kind on earth: the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. The doctor who turns medical science into high art is the gifted, ambitious Dr. Robert Spetzler. As compelling as a thriller, as provocative as the most intricate mystery, as searing as the most enthralling novel, The Healing Blade probes the most gripping puzzle of them all: What do we know about the brain, why does it make us who we are, and what are the boundaries of life? After spending hundreds of days and nights at the Institute, author Edward J. Sylvester has painstakingly and remarkably re-created the world of neurosurgery and its elite group of surgeons. He has witnessed the procedure firsthand - in which a patient is literally drained of blood, chilled to a cold 61 degrees Fahrenheit, and suspended along that fine line between life and death, between winning and losing, as Dr. Spetzler and his colleagues operate on areas of the brain previously unavailable to the surgeon's knife. Edward J. Sylvester has also seen the courage, the frustrating pain, and the joy of standstill's survivors. Here is Jack Schulte, a tough WWII veteran. But now, at sixty-four, after forty-four years of marriage, he has a stroke while gardening in his yard.... Here, too, is T. J. Mathias, a young boy in love with Little League and bike riding - until a truck comes out of nowhere and hits him.... And then there's Jennifer Turner, a romantic - even after seven years as a hard-working single mother. But, suddenly, she is pummeled by pain. A massive aneurysm is in the process of blocking t
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a splendid, often riveting account of high-tech procedures and personalities at the forefront of modern brain surgery, Sylvester ( Target: Cancer ) takes readers into the famed Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix, Ariz. There a staff of elite surgeons, led by director Robert Spetzler and equipped with the latest image-scanning machines and measuring techniques, pushes the frontiers of neurosurgery. The author's precise prose and apt imagery bare the interaction between staff members and patients linked by this exact and problematic surgery, illuminating the NASA-like preparation and teamwork involved in such procedures as hypothermic arrest, when the patient's blood is first chilled and then drained from his body for up to an hour. Focussing on Spetzler and the demands of his work, Sylvester offers an immediate, thorough and lucid chronicle. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Sylvester, journalist and author of Target: Cancer ( LJ 1/86), adds to the burgeoning popular literature on the brain. He shifts comfortably among several foci (the human brain, the patient, technology, the surgeon), creating a gripping portrait of modern surgery. (David Noonan in his Neuro , LJ 3/1/89) was less effective at managing these multiple topics.) At the center of this portrait stands Robert Spetzler, the talented world-famous head of neurosurgery at Phoenix's Barrow Neurological Institute. Spetzler is especially renowned for his finesse in handling ``standstills'' in which the patient's temperature is drastically lowered, the heart brought to a standstill, and surgery completed. Despite a rough, occasionally careless style, Sylvester knows how to maintain an effective rhythm and tell a good story. From a literary standpoint, Mark Shelton's Working in a Very Small Place ( LJ 6/1/89) and Steve Fishman's A Bomb in the Brain ( LJ 11/1/88) should be primary selections. But where interest remains high, The Healing Blade would make an appropriate third choice for public libraries.-- Laurie Bartolini, Lincoln Lib., Springfield, Ill.
William Beatty
This is primarily the story of neurosurgeon Robert Spetzler, director of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Sylvester shows Spetzler treating a variety of patients suffering from accidents, diseases, or congenital defects. Throughout, Sylvester emphasizes that Spetzler takes each case as an intellectual and physical challenge, a pitting of his skill and capability against the worst the country and the world can offer. A pioneer in microsurgery, Spetzler developed the standstill operation with hypothermic arrest and has used it on more than 100 patients with giant or hard-to-reach aneurysms and other major problems in the brain. This work has not been hidden under an Arizonan basket, and several of the patients, such as Timmy Mathias and the Siamese twins Hassan and Salem, have received international media attention. Sylvester has done a first-rate job in bringing Spetzler alive as a human being and as an operator (in the operating room as well as in medical and institutional politics) and in making neurosurgery and the anatomy and physiology it deals with understandable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671760540
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/1/1992
  • Pages: 256

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