Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cheating Death

Publisher's Summary. An unborn baby with a fatal heart defect . . . a skier submerged for an hour in a frozen Norwegian lake . . . a comatose brain surgery patient whom doctors have declared a "vegetable." Twenty years ago all of them would have been given up for dead, with no realistic hope for survival. But today, thanks to incredible new medical advances, each of these individuals is alive and well . . .Cheating Death.

In this riveting book, Dr. Sanjay Gupta-neurosurgeon, chief medical correspondent for CNN, and bestselling author-chronicles the almost unbelievable science that has made these seemingly miraculous recoveries possible. A bold new breed of doctors has achieved amazing rescues by refusing to accept that any life is irretrievably lost. Extended cardiac arrest, "brain death," not breathing for over an hour-all these conditions used to be considered inevitably fatal, but they no longer are. Today, revolutionary advances are blurring the traditional line between life and death in fascinating ways.

Drawing on real-life stories and using his unprecedented access to the latest medical research, Dr. Gupta dramatically presents exciting accounts of how pioneering physicians and researchers are altering our understanding of how the human body functions when it comes to survival-and why more and more patients who once would have died are now alive. From experiments with therapeutic hypothermia to save comatose stroke or heart attack victims to lifesaving operations in utero to the study of animal hibernation to help wounded soldiers on far-off battlefields, these remarkable case histories transform and enrich all our assumptions about the true nature of death and life.

Review. Cheating Death by Sanjay Gupta, M.D. would be considered science fiction if the stories were not true. The dramatic vignettes include: a skier submerged in icy waters for over an hour without a pulse; a man with an invariably lethal brain tumor who lives to celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of his diagnosis; and a “hopeless” neurological patient who returns to his medical practice. These “medical miracles” occurred in large part due to the interruption of the death domino chain. As Gupta explains,

Death is not a single event, but a process that may be interrupted, even reversed. And . . . at any point during this process, the course of what seems inevitable can be changed. That is precisely what . . . the book [is about]: the possibility of cheating death.

In addition, to the compelling personal survival stories, Gupta also highlights exciting new medical research that may save scores of lives in the future. The chapter on suspended animation (a medically induced “safe cocoon”) is particularly exciting! Suspended animation involves turning the heart off for an extended period of time and later restarting it. As one researcher reflects, “the whole of emergency medicine is a time dependent thing . . . . [And] things that can’t be fixed now, we could fix with more time. There’s no question.”

Cheating Death is an entertaining and eye opening read into the medical advances of today and a glimpse into the promise of tomorrow.

Publisher: Wellness Central, Hachette Book Group (Oct. 12, 2009), 282 pages.
Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds intense, how on earth that guy survived...I so wanna know