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The Open Heart Club

A Story about Birth and Death and Cardiac Surgery

by Gabriel Brownstein


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This history of the heart and cardiac medicine—as told by a writer with a congenital heart defect—ponders issues of mortality, empathy, and the things that make us human.

Born in 1966 with a congenital heart defect known as the tetralogy of Fallot, Gabriel Brownstein entered the world just as doctors were learning to operate on conditions like his. He received a life-saving surgery at five years old, and since then has ridden wave after wave of medical innovation, a series of interventions that have kept his heart beating.

The Open Heart Club is both a memoir of a life on the edge of medicine's reach and a history of the remarkable people who have made such a life possible. It begins with the visionary anatomists of the seventeenth century, tells the stories of the doctors (all women) who invented pediatric cardiology, and includes the lives of patients and physicians struggling to understand the complexities of the human heart. In the tradition of Oliver Sacks' A Leg to Stand On and Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon, this is a far-reaching book full of eye-opening research and compassionate, riveting storytelling.

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Gabriel Brownstein (Author)

Gabriel Brownstein has published a novel, The Man from Beyond, and a book of stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W. For his short fiction, he has won a PEN/Hemingway Award and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches at St. John's University i...

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The Open Heart Club
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