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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Open Heart: A Patient's Story of Life-Saving Medicine and Life-Giving Friendship by Jay Neugeboren (Houghton Mifflin) Friendship and the healing arts are the subject of Open Heart, a riveting memoir of one man's battle with heart disease. When, in February 1999, Jay Neugeboren, author of prizewinning novels and nonfiction, professor at the University of Massachusetts , discovered he needed emergency quintuple-bypass surgery, he embarked on a journey – it began on the operating table. At sixty, he was the picture of health, swimming a mile a day and playing tennis and basketball regularly – often with teenagers. How could he possibly have heart disease? But as he soon came to know, the difference between being healthy and being sick, and between receiving good care and receiving misdiagnoses, can be alarmingly narrow.
On his side were four lifelong friends, all prominent physicians – a cardiologist, a psychologist, a neurologist, and one of the world's pioneers in AIDS medicine – who helped him sift through the contradictory advice and the uneasiness one feels when life lies in the hands of strangers. Guiding him through the system and relying on the strength of their childhood bonds, born from their
Brooklyn upbringing, his friends saved his life and opened his eyes to the ways – good, bad, miraculous, and chilling – in which medicine is practiced in the United States today.
Open Heart, Neugeboren sets out to understand how and why he nearly died, and to find out what we know – and don't know – about disease and illness in general. Joined by his friends, each of whom reflects on his own life as a physician, Jay examines the faith many of us place in the advanced technologies of modern medicine and how that often distracts us from the most fundamental health care tool – an engaged physician who listens and cares. What he discovers is that the qualities that lie at the heart of friendship also define what we hope for, and are losing, in our doctors.
At a time when our health care system continues to disappoint,
Open Heart will resonate with every patient who has been shuttled between specialists, with every physician who has faced impossible time constraints and technologies, and with everyone who has helped a loved one through the maze of health care choices. Clear, compelling, comic, and inspiring, Open Heart is a well-crafted memoir that will open eyes and hearts – a memoir every patient, doctor, and care provider will want to read.

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