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Open Hearts – Stories of the Surgery that changes children’s lives

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’This book is suitable for clinical and non-clinical readers.’

Title: Open Hearts – Stories of the Surgery that changes children’s lives

Author: Kate Bull

Publisher: Elliott & Thomson

Reviewer: Kerry Bloodworth, retired assistant director of nursing, currently working as a Staff Nurse in NNU, Nottingham University Hospital

What was it like?

This was a interesting book that describes in detail the evolution of children’s cardiac surgery. In todays technological age it’s so easy to forget how relatively new this speciality is and how far this speciality has come. From on hope in the 1950’s to the relative success that surgery offers to today’s cardiac new-borns. The book went into detail for all aspects of care, to the ways of working for the children’s wards of the 50’s & 60’s, which appear barbaric to today’s children’s nurses. To the plight of the early survivors who are now in the 50’s and 60’s who are facing a series of ill health that it’s difficult for doctors to treat.

The book is written from a humanistic point of view, with many stories/case studies that illustrate the various chapters. The back of the book has a useful appendix that non-clinical reader would find useful. I also liked the photographs of the survivors of cardiac surgery. The book looks at surgery in the new-born and children to how procedures have changed with the advancement of technology, but also how the role of parents have changed over the decades, from leaving their child at the front door of the hospital, to being fully involved. There was an interesting chapter of the success stories of surgery in childhood that has led to different symptoms in adult life with the challenges of finding dr’s skilled in this embryonic speciality.

The books was written by a female doctorr who mentioned some of the challenges of female doctors striving for success in a male dominated medical world.

What were the highlights?

The highlights for me was the ease of being able to read the book. Its written in an easy style, the case studies brought the text alive and illustrated the struggles of these children being operated on many times, the struggles of their parents getting access to surgery (especially in USA were cost comes into the equasion), the long term effects of surgery and the courage to embark on the rest of their lives, decisions around pregnancies, work, career or education. Children’s surgery is often seen as a medical triumph, but for all the successful operations, the book makes you realise the pioneering patients whose surgery wasn’t successful but for their brave hopeful parents who helped children in the future.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The strength of this book is that its well researched, well written, contains the human side of cardiac surgery as well as a small section of photographs.

Who should read it?

This book is suitable for clinical and non-clinical readers. The clinical readers could be children’s, neonatal nurses, and health visitors who could gain from a greater understanding of the evolution of the speciality. Especially the current political agenda where children’s heart units are being closed in the development of the supra-regional centres.

The non-clinical readers could be parents or survivors of cardiac surgery.

open hearts final

open hearts final


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