A Heartbeat Away: A Novel

A Heartbeat Away: A Novel

by Harry Kraus


$11.71 $16.99 Save 31% Current price is $11.71, Original price is $16.99. You Save 31%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781434702579
Publisher: David C Cook
Publication date: 09/01/2012
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Harry Kraus, M.D. is a board-certified surgeon, medical missionary to East Africa, and accomplished writer of both non-fiction and fiction. Medical realism and gripping plotlines distinguish his writing, as he gets most of his ideas with a scalpel in hand. Dr. Kraus resides in Kenya with his wife Kris and the youngest of his three sons.

Read an Excerpt


a novel


David C. Cook

Copyright © 2012 Harry Kraus
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4347-0257-9


Between the gods and men.

Are surgeons.

That's the way Victoria "Tori" Anne Taylor, MD, always explained it to the sea of gaping medical-student faces as they prepared to begin their clinical rotations. She would pause for effect after the word men, turning one sentence into two and solidifying her own near-godlike status among the students who may have been book smart but didn't know a normal S-2 heart sound from the bass rhythms throbbing through their iPod earbuds.

Tori looked around the busy anesthesia holding area and reviewed the operation, going over every step, imagining each movement as a choreographed symphony of dissection. She'd once heard that the best professional baseball hitters did the same thing as they stood on deck, just before entering the batter's box. They saw the windup, the delivery, and the anticipated trajectory of the fastball, knee-high, just painting the inside corner of the plate. They saw their swing and the bat impacting the ball. Imagination led to success. Hitters who could see what would happen before it happened were the ones the fans adored.

And so it was with oncology surgeon Tori Taylor. Her operations were a thing of beauty, her even rows of sutures lining up like little soldiers on a Civil War battlefield. Predictably, home runs for Dr. Taylor were the norm. And behind her mask, she enjoyed the students' worship.

But today was different.

Today the operation she imagined was not going to be performed by her; it was going to be performed on her. The mental review of her surgery was her way of coping, a vain attempt, a desperate grasping at something she was loath to give up: control.

Illness had changed everything. No longer was she wearing the stethoscope; it was being gently laid over her sternum. And the eyes that couldn't hide concern were not hers but the eyes of her surgeon. The blade of the scalpel pointed toward her, not away. Up was down. In was out. Black was white, and control was a mirage, a wavering image floating above the minds of lost desert nomads or surgeons who thought they could predict outcomes because of their obsessive grip around everything manageable.

She'd lost control.

And that terrified her.

The face of a nurse appeared over her. Tori had seen this particular nurse a thousand times during her own tenure as a cancer surgeon, but, like all of the others, he was a background person, a nameless helper in orbit around her.

But today was different. She wanted—no, she needed to know the nurse's name. She strained to lean forward, gripping the railings of the stretcher, and grunted. She attempted to focus on his name tag. Her voice was as weak as she felt, barely a whisper. "Jeff."

"Don't try to talk now, Dr. Taylor. They should be coming to get you soon. Dr. Parrish is closing on the case in front of you."

That "case" has a name, she thought. Tori closed her eyes, annoyed but understanding. The nurse wasn't allowed to mention a name.

"Don't be afraid," the nurse continued. "Dr. Parrish is the best."

Do I look afraid? I'm not afraid!

Fear, Tori thought, was another needless emotion. She prided herself on operating on a higher plane than those mortals who struggled with the baggage of feelings. Emotions interfered with her ability to make tough decisions. When your enemy was cancer, being touchy-feely paralyzed your ability to cure. My enemy has no feelings. Cancer attacks without respect to beauty, form, or function. In order to win, a surgeon must match her foe.

She watched the staff scurry about, activities that Tori would have participated in just a few months ago without thinking. Hanging an IV, walking from bed to bed checking vital signs, pushing a stretcher. These were the mundane and unappreciated acts made possible by a functioning and efficient heart—something she no longer had.

As the staff cast furtive glances in her direction, Tori recognized contempt in some, pity in others. Their eyes sent the message: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. She may have stepped on them, reprimanding inefficiency, ineptitude—or worse, laziness—in this field where the stakes were health or illness, life or death. But now the tables were turned. She lay dying, her heart whimpering with each beat.

She heard low murmurings from beyond the curtain. The staff didn't seem to know what to do. It's neither professional nor personally satisfying to gloat over the dying.

Her heart had been ravaged by an evil lover of sorts, a virus that followed a cold-like illness, something Tori had pushed through, taking Tylenol and Sudafed until she just became so weak. At first, she'd just thought she had been pushing too hard, working late, performing too many operations in spite of the flu.

Later, she had awakened one night breathless and sat up gasping for air that suddenly seemed too thin to satisfy. She coughed frothy sputum into a Kleenex and stared down at her bare feet. Where did my ankles go? Extra fluid had taken up residence in her lungs and formerly shapely legs. Tori picked up her phone and dialed 911, explaining to the rescue squad that she was in acute heart failure. She demanded and received morphine, oxygen, and Lasix. Control.

Her heart-lover had a name: coxsackievirus B. It embraced the muscle layer of her heart with a savage jealousy, inflaming the muscle into submission and weakness. Regular medications improved things a little, chasing bully symptoms off the playground for a few hours, but then they would return and remind her to take the tablets that made life's menial tasks possible.

But medicine could not provide a cure. Only surgery could do that. Only the transplantation of a new heart could cure.

Ironic, Tori thought, that a surgeon can only be cured with the knife. Finally, the woman who had not had so much as a childhood tonsillectomy would be submitted to the same controlled violence that she had inflicted on thousands of others.

Another face appeared above her, a female of about fifty-five with short, cropped gray hair and a no-nonsense demeanor. She turned to face a mobile computer monitor. "I'll need you to verify your identification," she said. She lifted Tori's arm and studied her wristband.

"Victoria Anne Taylor," she whispered, rolling her eyes. Protocol.

"And what operation are you having today?"

"Heart transplant."

The nurse entered the data, clicking boxes on the computer screen. A moment later, her face appeared again. This time she was holding a small electric hair trimmer. "I have to prepare the operative field."

Tori shook her head. "I don't have any hair on my chest."

"Just routine," the nurse responded, lifting and pushing Tori's gown up under her chin.

The nurse studied Tori's chest for a moment before lowering the gown again, but not before Tori's eyes met those of a passing orderly who seemed to be enjoying a quick peek at Tori's ample anatomy.

Tori shook her head. "You should have pulled the curtain."

"Dr. Taylor," the nurse responded, "you've never cared much about that before."

She offered a plastic smile. "It's only business."

Tori winced. She must have slighted this nurse a time or two in the past. Or maybe a hundred times or two. How petty. A taste of my own medicine.

The nurse studied Tori's face. "You'll need to be aware of the pain scale," she said. "In recovery, the nurses will want you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten. One is a slight annoyance. Ten is the worst agony you've ever felt."

"I understand."

"Who will be waiting for word from Dr. Parrish when the operation is over? Parents?"

Tori shook her head and spoke with effort but not emotion. "My parents are dead."

The skin around the nurse's lips tightened, highlighting a series of wrinkles like little spokes radiating from the hub of a wheel. "A friend, perhaps?"

She stayed quiet and shook her head.


"There is no one."

"Would you like the chaplain to come by before you go into surgery? He can offer prayer—"

"No thanks."

The nurse walked away, but not before noisily pulling the curtain to shield Tori from the clinical traffic.

Tori closed her eyes and adjusted the prongs of the oxygen tubing, seating them more comfortably in her nose. She made an attempt to look at her situation objectively. What exactly should she think about as someone was preparing to lift out her damaged heart?

Her first thought struck her as overly sentimental. Someone had to die last night. A life cut short so that I can continue mine.

Whose heart will be beating in my chest? What was her life like? Was she a professional like me?

What will it feel like knowing my heart spent years pumping someone else's blood?

She heard the curtain rings sing against the rod again. Probably the protocol nurse. Instead, when she opened her eyes, she saw Jarrod Baker, a radiation oncologist.

Six months ago, the hospital grapevine had proclaimed that Jarrod and Tori were an "item." They had been, in fact, the ultimate medical power couple, gracing the social network, each with his and her own ties to the movers and shakers within the university. Professionally, they matched, their fields a natural complement. He killed cancer with radiation beams; she wielded a scalpel in the same battle.

They'd shared meals and movies, walks in the park, and racquetball. But Jarrod had wanted more from their relationship. For a while, he had pursued her. He did not seem to mind that others spoke of Tori as the "ice princess." For Jarrod, it seemed he had struck gold: benefits without all the emotional baggage.

Tori was only mildly annoyed at his persistence—a number one on the pain scale. For Tori, their relationship was detached convenience. She was expected to date. Jarrod fit the bill.

Was she so used to steeling herself against the baggage of negative emotions that threatened her professional decisions that she'd been unable to unwrap her heart?

But a month ago, Jarrod had stopped calling. As they'd both prided themselves in being above emotion, Tori's illness created the elephant in the room that kept them from moving forward. She didn't ask for empathy, and apparently, he was unprepared to help her face the looming grim reaper.

The hospital grapevine told her he'd moved on. There was an emotional respiratory therapist named Tami who'd just joined the staff. She cried at movies and dotted the /in her name with a heart. Sweet.

Tori watched his eyes widen as he assessed her new clinical situation.

"Do I look that bad?"

He shook his head. "No, no," he stuttered. "You look great." He paused, looking at the monitor and not at her. "It's your big day. I heard the residents say a heart was available."

She felt him take her hand. She looked away.

"Tori," he began. "I'm so sorry—"

She silenced him with a squeeze of the hand.

"I should have called." He hesitated, seemingly unable to meet her eyes. "I didn't know what to say."

Ironic, she thought, a man who deals with death in his clinical practice doesn't know how to deal with personal loss.

She watched as he rubbed out a few wrinkles on the cotton sheet. "Your guilt doesn't help." She paused. "I would have pushed you away anyhow. It's the way we're wired."

"I'm supposed to be here giving you support."

"I'll be fine."

He nodded. "Yeah, Tori, you always are."

She let the comment pass. She was just too tired.

He shuffled his feet. She could see he wanted to say more. He didn't. Finally, he just gave her hand a squeeze and said, "Your clinic nurse is outside."

That brought a smile to Tori's face. "Thanks for coming by."

He nodded again and slipped away, pulling back the curtain to allow Brittney Simms to enter. Although Tori was demanding of Brittney, the outpatient setting allowed Tori to step down a notch, and her relationship with Brittney was strong, built on years of teamwork.

Brittney smiled and wiped the corner of her eyes with the back of her hand. "Hi, Doc."

"Hey, no cryin' here. This is the best day of my new life."

The nurse pushed a rebellious strand of red hair behind her ear and nodded. "I know." She held out a large envelope. "It's from the patients in the clinic. I've been collecting comments, knowing this day would come."

Tori slipped the card from the envelope. A seascape decorated the cover. Inside, it simply said, "Wishing you a rapid recovery." There were comments from at least thirty patients.

She read over the names. It read like a who's who of patients in major abdominal surgery. Mr. Jones had a Whipple resection, a delicate and detailed removal of the head of the pancreas and the duodenum. Charles Smith had an extended right hepatectomy, a removal of two-thirds of his liver for cancer. Melody Jane had her rectum removed. Paige Withersby had a thyroidectomy.

Brittney smiled. "These patients would be dead without you."

"Don't be melodramatic, Brittney. They'd have found another surgeon."

She shook her head. "Not a better one."

Tori handed back the card. "Keep it for me. I want to read the comments after my surgery."

An orderly appeared, pulling back the curtain. "Showtime," he said.


Excerpted from A HEARTBEAT AWAY by HARRY KRAUS. Copyright © 2012 Harry Kraus. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1,
Chapter 2,
Chapter 3,
Chapter 4,
Chapter 5,
Chapter 6,
Chapter 7,
Chapter 8,
Chapter 9,
Chapter 10,
Chapter 11,
Chapter 12,
Chapter 13,
Chapter 14,
Chapter 15,
Chapter 16,
Chapter 17,
Chapter 18,
Chapter 19,
Chapter 20,
Chapter 21,
Chapter 22,
Chapter 23,
Chapter 24,
Chapter 25,
Chapter 26,
Chapter 27,
Chapter 28,
Chapter 29,
Chapter 30,
Chapter 31,
Chapter 32,
Chapter 33,
Chapter 34,
Chapter 35,
Chapter 36,
Chapter 37,
Chapter 38,
Chapter 39,
Chapter 40,
Chapter 41,
Chapter 42,
Chapter 43,
Chapter 44,
Getting to Know Harry,
More from Harry,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

A Heartbeat Away: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mystery, murder, romance and God's forgiveness-a story of healing•
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the story, the plot, the characters and the subtle hints but not too obvious clues! It keeps you guessing till the very end! I was very surprised and inpressed. It was an easy, quick read filled with the perfect amount of suspence, love, and religion. I really enjoyed the references to the Bible and the underlying message the book presented. A true delight....thank you!
BillieKay More than 1 year ago
Harry Kraus has written a medical suspense novel with lots of unexpected twists. There is some romance and there is a Christian foundation. I was thoroughly entertained and read the book in only a couple of days. There are things happening all along the way right up to the very end that I did not expect. I am not going to retell the story; rather, just recommend that this is a book that lots of people will enjoy. I received a copy of the book from the publisher and am very pleased with the level of books I am reading from David C. Cook Publishers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read lots of books on my Nook, enjoyed many, but seldom post a review. This book is compelling, and keeps you guessing until the end. Will definitely look for others from Mr. Krauss. Enjoyed this one very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read unexpected unexpected
VicG More than 1 year ago
Harry Kraus in his new book, “A Heartbeat Away” published by David C Cook brings us into the life of Dr. Tori Taylor. From the back cover: Haunted by memories of a murder she never witnessed Dr. Tori Taylor rules the operating room with a cold precision that makes nurses cower and her colleagues take notes. But even with her success as a respected surgeon, Tori finds herself alone in her moment of desperation—dying on her own operating table. Tori needs a heart transplant, but what she receives is far more than just a donor organ. Lying loveless and friendless in the recovery room, Tori experiences flashes of terrifying events she never witnessed. Soon she leaves her controlled world and starts investigating a homicide only she believes happened. Is she hallucinating? Or will someone believe her in time to stop a murderer from killing again? Ever heard the expression, “the heart remembers”? Well it seems that medical science has discovered that this is true. The doctors have found memory engrams in the heart similar to those found in the brain, where we normally think of memory. This only goes to prove the Bible is accurate when it tells us, “guard your heart.” Dr. Kraus has given us a page flipping thriller that is ripped from the current medical journals and added in an intense search for a murderer. The character of Dr. Taylor is so well written. First she starts off as a cold controlling person withdrawn from humanity but with the heart transplant she softens as she learns that God has taken from her old heart of stone and given her a new one of flesh. ”A Heartbeat Away” is a very exciting adventure that kept my attention all the way until the end. I recommend it highly. If you missed the interview for “The Six-Liter Club”, a different story from Dr. Kraus, and would like to listen to it and/or interviews with other authors and professionals please go to Kingdom Highlights where they are available On Demand. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from David C Cook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept my interest the whole way through! I have some medical background, so I was intrigued with the subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book, as I enjoyed it very much. It has mystery, suspense, and is a Christian novel. Very good reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book!. And it looks like it was written by a male author. .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book i would recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have recommended it too others to read.
nurse6030 More than 1 year ago
Great story that moved at a good pace while developing characters you were connected with. Would definitely read another book by Mr Kraus.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure if there is any validity to the theory of tissue "memory" but that is what the story revolves around. Dr. Tori Taylor receives a heart from a young donor who was killed. She is experiencing flashes of "memories" that are not her own. I wish I could have enjoyed this book more as Dr. Harry Kraus is a remarkable man doing extraordinary work.
ToriOK More than 1 year ago
It was so good it was a mystery until the end. The flashbacks were intriguing and not annoying like some can be. Some of the twists so shocking that you wondered how she was going to get out of it this time; I am still thinking about it a few days later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keeps your interest. A good, fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!
barry2B More than 1 year ago
A young female oncology surgeon has her life turned upside down in this Christian Medical Mystery Thriller. Dr. Tori is a perfectionist and drives the other staff mad as she pushes them for the same level of perfection she strives for in herself. That is until she contracts a virus that attacks her heart and she has a heart transplant. Suddenly she is more emotional and has more awareness of the feelings of others around her. She starts having nightmares about events she does not recall until she starts to investigate where her heart came from. She strives to find the murderer of her heart donor and along the way put herself and her friends in great danger. A five star read for me!