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When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon
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When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  123 ratings  ·  36 reviews
"With When Death Becomes Life, Joshua Mezrich has performed the perfect core biopsy of transplantation—a clear and compelling account of the grueling daily work, the spell-binding history and the unsettling ethical issues that haunt this miraculous lifesaving treatment. Mezrich's compassionate and honest voice, punctuated by a sharp and intelligent wit, render the enormous ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Harper
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4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  123 ratings  ·  36 reviews


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Ryan Boissonneault
It is an underappreciated fact that today a surgeon can, if needed, rip open your chest, remove your heart, replace it with another one, and if all goes well, have you discharged in 10 days. This amazing feat of modern medicine, one we may rarely think about, was at one point thought to be nothing more than a science fiction fantasy—and rightly so.

The number of hurdles standing in the way of successful transplantation was enormous. These included figuring out how to suture together blood vessel
...more
Kazen
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
3.5 stars

Books by doctors who wield scalpels are some of my favorites, and Mezrich does a great job introducing the reader to the history and current practice of transplant surgery.

The good:

- This is not a comprehensive history of transplantation, nor a memoir, nor a collection of patient stories. It's equal parts of each, allowing us to get an overview of the field in a personal, relatable way.

- Transplant surgery is amazing, and Mezrich obviously loves his job and sharing that wonder and excit
...more
Rebecca
In this debut memoir a surgeon surveys the history of organ transplantation, recalling his own medical education and the special patients he’s met along the way. In the 1940s and 1950s patient after patient was lost to rejection of the transplanted organ, post-surgery infection, or hemorrhaging. Mezrich marvels at how few decades passed between transplantation seeming like something out of a science-fiction future and becoming a commonplace procedure. His aim is to never lose his sense of wonder ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: janff
Summary: This book was a mixed bag for me, with some parts that were far more interesting than others and a tone that varied from too formal to too informal to spot on.

This is one of the many recent releases in what is becoming one of my favorite genres,  memoir plus an intro to another topic. In this case, transplant surgeon Joshua Mezrich combines his professional memoir with a history of transplant surgery and some of his patients' stories. This blend gives the reader a glimpse of both the te
...more
April Greissinger
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Big thanks to Harper Books for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

I LOVED this book and I will definitely be thinking about it for a long time! I am in the medical field and I love reading about anything medical, from healthcare provider's experiences to any past history regarding the field. When I saw this book was coming out, I was extremely excited and had to get my hands on a copy! I love learning new things through books and I didn't know that much about su
...more
Susan LeGrand Levine
To give is to receive...I did and this one thing I know!

This book describes in detail the heroes (and their stories)who blazed the trail of transplantation. Being a donor and having a healthy husband is my reward. Thanks Josh for your part in making this a reality to our family. This book helps me understand so much better what went on at UW Hospital-Madison May 23rd, 2012. I’m forever grateful.
Chris C
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 This is a decent medical book but after the glorious writing in Emperor of Maladies it is somewhat deficient. For instance, the writer delineates a certain operation but I have no idea to which the author references. Diagrams, analogies, pictures, even a YouTube link would have been of much use but I am left to wonder as medical jargon abounds without any layperson reference.

Furthermore, the writing is somewhat insipid in that the pioneers of transplantation are limited to severe exposition
...more
Jenn
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thanks to BookShout for letting me read this book!

In order to fully appreciate this book, one needs to take anatomy and a medical terminology class. Or google everything they don’t understand and take forever reading this.

It also could use pictures to demonstrate what he’s talking about with crossing or connecting the veins and arteries and where people have put kidneys in the past, etc.

There are also a lotttt of historical figures whom I’ve never heard of before to keep track. I need a timel
...more
Bonny
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Death Becomes Life is an interesting memoir and history of organ transplantation from transplant surgeon Dr. Joshua Mezrich. While I enjoyed his writing about the history, researchers and physicians that brought us to this point in time with transplantations, I enjoyed his writing about his own background, how and why he became a transplant surgeon, and his own patients just as much or more. Dr. Mezrich always maintains an awareness and respect for the great gift that donors and their famil ...more
Jeff Bobin
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical
Many of us have come to take the ability to transplant organs for granted without realizing the cost to get where we are today.

This brief look at the history or transplantation and some of the key people that brought us to where we are today is an interesting read. It is written in a way that the lay person can understand most of it but would benefit anyone in the medical field.

It is a look into the lives of the surgeons but just as importantly into the lives of the patients, donors and others
...more
Jamie
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. I thought reading it would make me less nervous about having transplant surgery. It didn’t help. I learned all about the history of transplant for kidneys, livers, pancreas, heart and lungs. I also learned about immunosuppressant drugs and how organs are procured for transplant. All of this from a transplant surgeon’s point of view.
Jerry had listened to NPR and Dr. Joshua D. Mezrich was a feature story his life as a transplant surgeon.
This was how o came across th
...more
Rana
Jan 27, 2019 added it
Really fascinating history.
Janelle • She Reads with Cats
Review to come
Steve
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyable, emotional memoir of a transplant surgeon

I loved this book. I found it an emotional rollercoaster: joy for transplants that worked, sorrow for transplants that didn't, and sorrow for the donors who met untimely deaths but also joy that parts of them lived on in transplant recipients. This book encompassed history of medicine, modern medicine and memoir. As a memoir, the book is excellent; I loved Joshua Mezrich’s adventures and the way he described them, and this is where Mezrich’s sen
...more
Emily
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been a supporter of organ donation ever since I discovered that Singapore Citizens are by default consented to organ donation until they decided to opt out of the government program. I instantly knew that I wanted to be an organ donor then because it was the right thing to do. When you die, these organs have no use for you anymore, so why not give them to multiple people so that they can have another shot at life?

I am not a Singapore Citizen (boy how I wish I am), and looking to my own c
...more
Katie Gurney
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant

This book is fantastic! I really enjoyed the history of transplants and the risk takers that paved the way to save so many lives. It's amazing to read all of the patient stories from a physicians perspective and to gain insight into this medical specialty. I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend.
Sarah Beth
I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins.

Part memoir from a transplant surgeon on his experiences in the field and part history of the practice of transplantation, this book strikes the delicate balance of conveying a wealth of information on the movement of organs between bodies while also keeping the human element of the patients' stories very present. Throughout the book, Mezrich covers multiple types of transplants including kidney, liver, heart, pancreas, and ski
...more
Melissa
Mezrich presents a history of solid organ transplantation alongside his own history of learning to become a transplant surgeon (mostly kidneys and livers). Each road was long and hard and if you know anything about this branch of medicine, it comes with significant risk of failure. Mezrich includes two chapters where he presents the stories of some of his recipients and of the donors and their families. If you are not moved by those stories you have no soul.

This is also a reminder to consider m
...more
Briony
When I first saw this book advertised, I immediately added it to my to-read pile. I didn't fully read the book blurb, but based on assumptions, I thought it would be more about Mezrich's own stories with transplants. This book is more so a compilation of history, ethics, and personal journey. It does not necessarily disappoint, but I would recommend it to people who want an accessible history of the development transplant with a sprinkling of transplant stories.
Mike H
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent combination of surgeon's experiences and a history of organ transplantation. A highlight were several heartfelt and touching stories. Some humor. Descriptions of cases tended to be filled with overwhelming medical terminology and jargon, perhaps unavoidable but it made for dry reading. Author's dedication to transplantation shines through, as does his sense of both pride and privilege to work in the field.
Martin
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I would have entered 3.5. Part of this book is a summary of the history of transplant surgery and the numerous failures (patient deaths) in the early years. It’s also part memoir of the personal struggle to make transplant surgery a career. However there were a lot of clinical details and jargon that I had to try to remember from HS biology 50 yrs ago. They could have been explained better or a glossary included.
Tiara Lynn
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
This was surprisingly engaging with a focus on story versus too much medical jargon. Dr. Mezrich has a way of describing his surgeries that’s almost cinematic, painting a picture for the reader. I have several loved ones who are alive and thriving because of the chances the early pioneers of transplant medicine took.

CW/TW Discussion of animal testing that’s sometimes a little graphic.
Nelia
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book, written by a surgeon, is both a history of organ transplantation and a memoir. It recounts early transplantation attempts, starting in the 50's and 60's, that paved the way for the current rate of success, now made possible by cyclosporine and other anti-rejection drugs. It is well written and very comprehensible to the lay reader.
Mai
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Maybe four and a half. It was an amazing book to read with great insight and stories that pull you in. It was also heart- wrenchingly difficult to read just two months after my niece died in a tragic car accident and was able to donate some parts of her body after her death.
Jenn
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent rendering of what it takes to be a modern surgeon versus how we got where we are. I enjoyed the anecdotal stories the author told from his repertoire of surgeries/patients with the contrast of the experimental transplants that happened in the early twentieth century.
Heather
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
I heard the author interviewed on NPR and was eager to read this. I think this is a good book and probably compelling to many but I personally found the details and history of transplant surgery too dry for my non-scientific mind.
Krista Park
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A mix of memoir and historical overview of transplant science. A bit of a polemic on why to donate organs and tissue, but also really good. Also, a really good story of personal perseverance in school -- the surgeon had to work to succeed.
Michelle Grosch
A fascinating book about the history of organ transplantation that includes stories from the author’s experiences as a transplant surgeon. I enjoyed his down to earth writing style and sense of humor. Very engaging and readable.
Lane Brooke
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Loved this book. Covers the range of types and transplants with their histories, all interwoven with stories of recipients and donors.
Joan
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, memoirs, non-fiction
Fascinating and accessible.
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A graduate of Cornell Medical School, Joshua Mezrich, MD, is an associate professor of surgery in the division of multi-organ transplantation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.