In gripping prose, one of the world's leading cardiac surgeons lays bare both the wonder and the horror of a life spent a heartbeat away from death When Stephen Westaby witnessed a patient die on the table during open-heart surgery for the first time, he was struck by the quiet, determined way the surgeons walked away. As he soon understood, this detachment is a crucial survival strategy in a profession where death is only a heartbeat away. In Open Heart, Westaby reflects on over 11,000 surgeries, showing us why the procedures have never become routine and will never be. With astonishing compassion, he recounts harrowing and sometimes hopeful stories from his operating room: we meet a pulseless man who lives with an electric heart pump, an expecting mother who refuses surgery unless the doctors let her pregnancy reach full term, and a baby who gets a heart transplant-only to die once it's in place. For readers of Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and of Henry Marsh's Do No Harm, Open Heart offers a soul-baring account of a life spent in constant confrontation with death.