When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon

When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon

by Joshua D Mezrich


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“Although When Death Becomes Life is about courage and innovation and dedication, it is foremost a book about hope…. This monumental and enthralling history of one of modern medicine’s most rousing triumphs is a definitive testament to that hope, and to the brave physicians and patients whose sacrifices made it possible.”
   — New York Journal of Books

A gifted surgeon illuminates one of the most profound, awe-inspiring, and deeply affecting achievements of modern day medicine—the movement of organs between bodies—in this exceptional work of death and life that takes its place besides Atul Gawande’s Complications, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, and Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think.

At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Joshua Mezrich creates life from loss, transplanting organs from one body to another. In this intimate, profoundly moving work, he illuminates the extraordinary field of transplantation that enables this kind of miracle to happen every day.

When Death Becomes Life is a thrilling look at how science advances on a grand scale to improve human lives. Mezrich examines more than one hundred years of remarkable medical breakthroughs, connecting this fascinating history with the inspiring and heartbreaking stories of his transplant patients. Combining gentle sensitivity with scientific clarity, Mezrich reflects on his calling as a doctor and introduces the modern pioneers who made transplantation a reality—maverick surgeons whose feats of imagination, bold vision, and daring risk taking generated techniques and practices that save millions of lives around the world.

Mezrich takes us inside the operating room and unlocks the wondrous process of transplant surgery, a delicate, intense ballet requiring precise timing, breathtaking skill, and at times, creative improvisation. In illuminating this work, Mezrich touches the essence of existence and what it means to be alive. Most physicians fight death, but in transplantation, doctors take from death. Mezrich shares his gratitude and awe for the privilege of being part of this transformative exchange as the dead give their last breath of life to the living. After all, the donors are his patients, too.

When Death Becomes Life also engages in fascinating ethical and philosophical debates: How much risk should a healthy person be allowed to take to save someone she loves? Should a patient suffering from alcoholism receive a healthy liver? What defines death, and what role did organ transplantation play in that definition? The human story behind the most exceptional medicine of our time, Mezrich’s riveting book is a beautiful, poignant reminder that a life lost can also offer the hope of a new beginning.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062656209
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 43,089
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

A graduate of Cornell Medical School, Joshua Mezrich, MD, is an associate professor of surgery in the division of multi-organ transplantation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Table of Contents

Note from the Author ix

Milestones in Transplantation xi

Part I Out of Body

1 A Perfect Organ 3

2 Puzzle People 11

Part II The Making of a Transplant Surgeon

3 The Simple Beauty of the Kidney 35

4 Skin Harvest 53

5 Kidney Beans: Making Kidney Transplant a Reality 67

Part III Expanding the Horizon Beyond the Simplicity of the Kidney

6 Open Heart: The Invention of Cardiopulmonary Bypass 103

7 Hearts on Fire: Making Heart Transplant a Reality 130

8 Sympathy for the Pancreas: Curing Diabetes 163

9 Prometheus Revisited: Liver Transplants and Thomas Starzl 178

Part IV The Patients

10 Jason: The Secret Is to Live in the Present 209

11 Lisa and Herb: Should We Do Liver Transplants for Alcoholics? 222

12 Nate: The Selection Meeting, or Who Gets an Organ and Why? 239

13 Michaela: We Are All the Same on the Inside 255

Part V The Donors

14 As They Lay Dying 271

15 Healthy Donors: Do No Harm 292

Part VI Today and Beyond

16 Complications 309

17 Xenotransplantation: From One Species to Another 322

18 So, You Want to Be a Transplant Surgeon? 329

Acknowledgments 343

Notes 349

Selected Bibliography 357

Index 359

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When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read this book because I am going to be a kidney donor in several weeks. I was so impressed by the information in this book, from the history of implantations to the insight of one who performs these operations daily. It was an incredible read and I highly recommend it. It was easy to read, informative and personal.