Fragile Lives: A Heart Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table by Stephen Westaby - review by Wendy Moore

Wendy Moore

Priming the Pump

Fragile Lives: A Heart Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table

By

HarperCollins 340pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

The first time Stephen Westaby witnessed a heart operation, he was an eighteen-year-old medical student hiding in an abandoned observation gallery above the operating theatre. The patient, a young woman, died amid a torrent of blood. Despite, or because of, this traumatic introduction, Westaby went on to dedicate his life to open-heart surgery, performing daring operations on some of the youngest, most vulnerable and most hopeless patients, in the process becoming a world leader in his field. Now facing the prospect of putting away his scalpel for good, Westaby has chosen to bare his own heart in a profoundly powerful and disturbing memoir. 

Reflecting on a thirty-five-year career in the NHS, including thirty years as a consultant cardiac surgeon at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, Westaby dissects his personal and professional triumphs and tragedies, using the stories of the patients who found themselves on his operating table in a similar manner to neurosurgeon Henry

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter