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When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales of Neurosurgery

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"This book should be read by every medical student, doctor and present or potential patient. In other words, by all of us." --Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles Rule One for the neurologist in residence: "You ain't never the same when the air hits your brain." In this fascinating book, Dr. Frank Vertosick brings that fact to life through intimate portra "This book should be read by every medical student, doctor and present or potential patient. In other words, by all of us." --Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles Rule One for the neurologist in residence: "You ain't never the same when the air hits your brain." In this fascinating book, Dr. Frank Vertosick brings that fact to life through intimate portraits of patients and unsparing yet gripping descriptions of brain surgery. With insight, humor, and poignancy, Dr. Vertosick chronicles his remarkable evolution from naive young intern to world-class neurosurgeon, where he faced, among other challenges, a six week-old infant with a tumor in her brain, a young man struck down in his prime by paraplegia, and a minister with a .22 caliber bullet lodged in his skull. In candid detail, WHEN THE AIR HITS YOUR BRAIN illuminates both the mysteries of the mind and the realities of the operating room. "Riveting." --Publishers Weekly


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"This book should be read by every medical student, doctor and present or potential patient. In other words, by all of us." --Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles Rule One for the neurologist in residence: "You ain't never the same when the air hits your brain." In this fascinating book, Dr. Frank Vertosick brings that fact to life through intimate portra "This book should be read by every medical student, doctor and present or potential patient. In other words, by all of us." --Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles Rule One for the neurologist in residence: "You ain't never the same when the air hits your brain." In this fascinating book, Dr. Frank Vertosick brings that fact to life through intimate portraits of patients and unsparing yet gripping descriptions of brain surgery. With insight, humor, and poignancy, Dr. Vertosick chronicles his remarkable evolution from naive young intern to world-class neurosurgeon, where he faced, among other challenges, a six week-old infant with a tumor in her brain, a young man struck down in his prime by paraplegia, and a minister with a .22 caliber bullet lodged in his skull. In candid detail, WHEN THE AIR HITS YOUR BRAIN illuminates both the mysteries of the mind and the realities of the operating room. "Riveting." --Publishers Weekly

30 review for When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales of Neurosurgery

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!

    This is the sort of book you think of long after you've finished. Some tales won't leave me. The six-week old little girl born with a brain tumour. Her teenage, indigent parents were told to go away and have another child as this one wouldn't leave hospital and wouldn't live long. So they went and never saw her again. But she lived for 18 months developing into a sunny, golden-haired child albeit one tube fed, on oxygen and paralysed. At one point the author didn't see her for six months but the This is the sort of book you think of long after you've finished. Some tales won't leave me. The six-week old little girl born with a brain tumour. Her teenage, indigent parents were told to go away and have another child as this one wouldn't leave hospital and wouldn't live long. So they went and never saw her again. But she lived for 18 months developing into a sunny, golden-haired child albeit one tube fed, on oxygen and paralysed. At one point the author didn't see her for six months but then he did and she recognised him and smiled and wanted to hug him despite not having use of her arms. She had remembered one of her very few friends. Some months after her death her parents who had never been back to visit her sent a statue of a laughing girl to the hospital with a little plaque in memory of their daughter The author wasn't concerned about too many of the technicalities of brain surgery although there is enough science to make it instructive, but about the effects on the patient, for better, or quite often for worse. There are two thing I got from this book: 1. Don't have any kind of surgery if you can avoid it, especially not brain surgery. There's always a risk. 2. Failure instructs better than success. See 1. above. It might be good for the doctor but for the patient, not so much. Good book, not stellar, but a very enjoyable.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook: memoir of a brain surgeon. Purchased as a 'daily special' ways back. I would have paid twice as much!!!! FASCINATING....GRAPHIC.....SCARY....SAD.....MOVING....THRILLING....INFORMATIVE....COMPASSIONATE.....HARD TO PUT DOWN!!! We also are privy to the authors feelings, and moral concerns. The narrator's voice, Kirby Heyborne, felt so genuine. He was easy to be with -not an ounce of ego in his voice -- which allowed me to experience the greatness of Frank T. Vertosick Jr. This story begin Audiobook: memoir of a brain surgeon. Purchased as a 'daily special' ways back. I would have paid twice as much!!!! FASCINATING....GRAPHIC.....SCARY....SAD.....MOVING....THRILLING....INFORMATIVE....COMPASSIONATE.....HARD TO PUT DOWN!!! We also are privy to the authors feelings, and moral concerns. The narrator's voice, Kirby Heyborne, felt so genuine. He was easy to be with -not an ounce of ego in his voice -- which allowed me to experience the greatness of Frank T. Vertosick Jr. This story begins when Vertosick is a 3rd year medical resident. He didn't have this 'life-desire-or-goal' to become a brain surgeon. ---yet the tale of how that leap happens is interesting in itself. The way we learn about this field of medicine- raw details- blending with superb storytelling--is what made listening to this audiobook so good. We begin to get an 'honest-to-goodness' overview into the culture of neurosurgery. One woman was pregnant and had a brain tumor. -- It was gut wrenching story. A couple 'do' make your eyes water. Many of the patient cases were riveting. A couple of the 'inside' chats between doctors were frightening. I learned about radio surgery--spine surgery- ( which are are growing in this country) - more specifics within the operating rooms - functional Nero surgery- electrical stimulating devices- recent advances - and new advances of surgery for Parkinson's disease. NOTE: KGO - SF Bay Area radio host - Ron Owens - had brain surgery for Parkisons disease. They put an electrical stimulator inside his brain to help control symptoms such as shaking - and slowing down the progression of the disease itself. He shared with his viewers on the radio - before - during - and after his brain surgery. Great success story. I WASN'T expecting the ending to this book. -- [the epilogue] -- oh my god....It was soooooo sad!!!!!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Deana

    I couldn't put this book down. It was a brillant and an unvarnished retrospective on the author's difficult five years in medical residency for neurosurgery. The story has both great humor and pathos and I haven't both cried and laughed in the same sitting like I did with this book in as long as I can remember. His "rules of neurosurgery" are particularly enjoyable: 1. You "ain't never" the same when the air hits your brain. 2. The only minor operation is one that someone else is doing. 3. If the p I couldn't put this book down. It was a brillant and an unvarnished retrospective on the author's difficult five years in medical residency for neurosurgery. The story has both great humor and pathos and I haven't both cried and laughed in the same sitting like I did with this book in as long as I can remember. His "rules of neurosurgery" are particularly enjoyable: 1. You "ain't never" the same when the air hits your brain. 2. The only minor operation is one that someone else is doing. 3. If the patient isn't dead, you can always make him worse if you try hard enough. 4. One look at the patient is better than a thousand phone calls from the nurse. 5. Operating on the wrong patient or doing the wrong side of the body makes for a very bad day--always ask the patient what side their pain is on, which leg hurts, which hand is numb. A great book and one I will certainly read again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    Failure instructs better than success When does compassion stop being useful to a dying patient. When does morals and ethics get in the way of progress? These are hard questions and the author does a brilliant job addressing this and showing the failures and triumphs of becoming a neurosurgeon. He strikes the right balance between medicine and the human behind the mask. It also shows the rivalry between different specialities in the medical profession. Why neurosurgeons look down their noses at inte Failure instructs better than success When does compassion stop being useful to a dying patient. When does morals and ethics get in the way of progress? These are hard questions and the author does a brilliant job addressing this and showing the failures and triumphs of becoming a neurosurgeon. He strikes the right balance between medicine and the human behind the mask. It also shows the rivalry between different specialities in the medical profession. Why neurosurgeons look down their noses at internists and vice versa. The case studies involving infant neurosurgery – specifically the story of Rebecca – and the story of Sarah the pregnant cancer patient was fascinating and utterly heart breaking at the same time As a side note, I am pretty sure that the writers of Grey’s Anatomy liberally “borrowed” some of the stories in this book. Recommended for anyone who has a love for medical memoirs. If you want to try a book like this but is daunted by the “medical speak” then I would recommend starting with The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician's First Year

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Milne

    I truly enjoyed this book. I liked the author's voice and style. I liked his narrative, and I liked his questioning. It's a great read, and an informative one. Oh, and I really like his descriptions. Like this one: “The soul’s tapestry lies woven in the brain’s nerve threads. Delicate, inviolate, the brain floats serenely in a bone vault like the crown jewel of biology. What motivated the vast leap in intellectual horsepower between chimp and man? Between tree dweller and moon walker? Is the brai I truly enjoyed this book. I liked the author's voice and style. I liked his narrative, and I liked his questioning. It's a great read, and an informative one. Oh, and I really like his descriptions. Like this one: “The soul’s tapestry lies woven in the brain’s nerve threads. Delicate, inviolate, the brain floats serenely in a bone vault like the crown jewel of biology. What motivated the vast leap in intellectual horsepower between chimp and man? Between tree dweller and moon walker? Is the brain a gift from God, or simply the jackpot of a trillion rolls of DNA dice?”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ruthanne Johnston

    What an amazing story! Dr. Vertosick, a neurosurgeon, wrote this book in the late '90's, but please don't let that deter your interest in reading it. Times have changed, neurosurgery has changed, but the basics are still there because our brains and nervous systems remain the same. It's a portrait of a young physician/surgeon as he develops his skills, makes errors, slowly but sadly adopts the attitude of many surgeons, that of surgical psychopath. That designation simply means that he removes hi What an amazing story! Dr. Vertosick, a neurosurgeon, wrote this book in the late '90's, but please don't let that deter your interest in reading it. Times have changed, neurosurgery has changed, but the basics are still there because our brains and nervous systems remain the same. It's a portrait of a young physician/surgeon as he develops his skills, makes errors, slowly but sadly adopts the attitude of many surgeons, that of surgical psychopath. That designation simply means that he removes himself so far from the personality of the patient and his fears and emotions, and concentrates solely on the mechanics and outcomes of each of his procedures. There were moments in the book when, as a nurse, I flat out didn't like Dr. Vertosick. But as the book went on, I could understand better his point of view and felt such deep respect for his knowledge and capabilities in this, the most mystifying part of the body, the brain. There are many graphic scenes of surgery so it may not be for the faint of heart or anyone who has lost a loved one to a brain tumor, an aneurysm or stroke. The epilogue of the book caused me to cry. That is when I learned the ultimate fate of this talented physician. He bravely tells of his condition today and how he can no longer practice the skills that he developed so carefully over the years. Sad, oh so sad.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    Fascinating, but brief. Worth noting for current readers, this was first published in 1977. I don't know how much the science has progressed, but pretty sure, significantly. Still--this is one doctor's experience, and he tells his story with a respect for the patient and the profession. It was good to be reminded that there are doctors who regard their patients with compassion. Fascinating, but brief. Worth noting for current readers, this was first published in 1977. I don't know how much the science has progressed, but pretty sure, significantly. Still--this is one doctor's experience, and he tells his story with a respect for the patient and the profession. It was good to be reminded that there are doctors who regard their patients with compassion.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Here in the U.S., we generally believe all surgeons are arrogant SOB’s. Vertosick’s book is proof that not all surgeons fit that mold. If you like memoir’s with a medical focus, this one is worth reading. Full review at TheBibliophage.com Here in the U.S., we generally believe all surgeons are arrogant SOB’s. Vertosick’s book is proof that not all surgeons fit that mold. If you like memoir’s with a medical focus, this one is worth reading. Full review at TheBibliophage.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    I’m both fascinated and disturbed by this subject. I guess it’s fascinatingly disturbing. But the stories in this memoir of the author’s early training as a neurosurgeon are compelling and memorable. And he comes off very likable and humble to me, which makes him all the more intelligent, right? Audible version is excellent.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scot Parker

    "You're never the same after the air hits your brain." As the synopsis says, this book is a collection of stories from Dr. Vertosick's career as a neurosurgeon. If that sounds interesting to you, you'll like this book. The stories are engaging and fascinating, told in a compassionate, occasionally self-deprecating voice. I'm glad I read this. "You're never the same after the air hits your brain." As the synopsis says, this book is a collection of stories from Dr. Vertosick's career as a neurosurgeon. If that sounds interesting to you, you'll like this book. The stories are engaging and fascinating, told in a compassionate, occasionally self-deprecating voice. I'm glad I read this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    “Failure instructs better than success. A single death shapes the surgeon’s psyche in a way that fifty “saves” cannot.” I loved this personal journey of a neurosurgeon from being a slightly naive but ambitious intern to a full qualified specialist. He guides us trough several cases he experienced in his career and certainly knows how to create tension. The cases he describes really stick with you and make you think. Dealing with children and pregnant woman with deadly brain tumors and similar re “Failure instructs better than success. A single death shapes the surgeon’s psyche in a way that fifty “saves” cannot.” I loved this personal journey of a neurosurgeon from being a slightly naive but ambitious intern to a full qualified specialist. He guides us trough several cases he experienced in his career and certainly knows how to create tension. The cases he describes really stick with you and make you think. Dealing with children and pregnant woman with deadly brain tumors and similar really relate to you on an emotional level. Far beyond the medical side this book focuses a lot on the human side of disease and the responsibilities of being a doctor. Reading it often felt a lot like watching a good medical series. You get invested into the stories and you get curious about how they turn out, but you‘re confronted with the hope, despair and insecurities just as much.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Deb✨

    3.5 stars. This book covers some interesting subject matter. I think it would be an interesting read for people that are not in the medical field. The author does a good job of describing his experiences so that people can understand what he is talking about and be fascinated by what all is involved. There is some pretty emotional stuff in this book, and it takes a special kind of person to be a neurosurgeon, for sure! For people that are in the medical field and work in the hospital and see a l 3.5 stars. This book covers some interesting subject matter. I think it would be an interesting read for people that are not in the medical field. The author does a good job of describing his experiences so that people can understand what he is talking about and be fascinated by what all is involved. There is some pretty emotional stuff in this book, and it takes a special kind of person to be a neurosurgeon, for sure! For people that are in the medical field and work in the hospital and see a lot of this stuff on a fairly regular basis this book might be just an okay read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    This was yesterday's audible daily deal and I thought to myself "that sounds intersting" I am so glad I decided to buy it, this book was more than interesting, it was fucking amazing! I learned, I laughed, and I cried my fucking eyes out at work. This book is more than just a look at the life of a neurosurgion, it is a look at life itself. I am not in a medical profession and have never had any interest in medicine at all, but I can not recommend this book enough! This was yesterday's audible daily deal and I thought to myself "that sounds intersting" I am so glad I decided to buy it, this book was more than interesting, it was fucking amazing! I learned, I laughed, and I cried my fucking eyes out at work. This book is more than just a look at the life of a neurosurgion, it is a look at life itself. I am not in a medical profession and have never had any interest in medicine at all, but I can not recommend this book enough!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    A wonderfully interesting read about the life of a neurosurgeon, and the various cases he had. It balances the human story and the science story perfectly, and I felt like I got a lot out of the book. Who knew cancerous cells basically reverted your cells back into the cells you had as a baby, before they matured? I'll definitely look into more books about neurosurgery! A wonderfully interesting read about the life of a neurosurgeon, and the various cases he had. It balances the human story and the science story perfectly, and I felt like I got a lot out of the book. Who knew cancerous cells basically reverted your cells back into the cells you had as a baby, before they matured? I'll definitely look into more books about neurosurgery!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ardon Pillay

    A no holds barred account of the life of a neurosurgical resident in the 70s. Vertosick went through a training programme which would now be called inhumane, spending more than a hundred hours at a time in the hospital without going home. However, he reflects on everything good that came out of this. The very tactile nature of neurosurgery demands practice and practice demands time. The hard work that he put in clearly paid dividends, as he learnt not just how to perform some immensely complex a A no holds barred account of the life of a neurosurgical resident in the 70s. Vertosick went through a training programme which would now be called inhumane, spending more than a hundred hours at a time in the hospital without going home. However, he reflects on everything good that came out of this. The very tactile nature of neurosurgery demands practice and practice demands time. The hard work that he put in clearly paid dividends, as he learnt not just how to perform some immensely complex and specialised surgeries on the nervous system, but also became very good at building a rapport with his patients. Achieving these sort of results in medicine takes hard work of course - as Bob Kelso, the chief of Medicine in Scrubs put it, “nothing worth having comes easy.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Vertosick lets readers tag along as he moves from medical student to intern to resident and up the chain of command supervising others in a hospital setting. Yes, his book provides interesting case studies full of technical detail. It also lets us see how surgeons are all-too-human: skill isn't innate, it comes with practice; there's a bit of infighting between neurologists and neurosurgeons; everyone's sleep deprived; there are hazing rituals; most surgeons are arrogant; and nobody is perfect. Vertosick lets readers tag along as he moves from medical student to intern to resident and up the chain of command supervising others in a hospital setting. Yes, his book provides interesting case studies full of technical detail. It also lets us see how surgeons are all-too-human: skill isn't innate, it comes with practice; there's a bit of infighting between neurologists and neurosurgeons; everyone's sleep deprived; there are hazing rituals; most surgeons are arrogant; and nobody is perfect. Nevertheless, I was very interested to get the nitty gritty detail on this profession. Hidden in the last few pages of the book is a meditation on the fact that everybody dies. Vertosick describes the planned obsolescence of the human body, the evolutionary advantage for the species of winnowing out flawed design, and the absurdity of thinking nature could produce organisms that never corrupt. It's a harsh reality but one that everyone has to deal with at some point. As a surgeon, he's confronted with the reality of death every day. And here is a "gee whiz" for fans of House M.D. This book was published almost a decade before House M.D. aired, and I swear it's an influence. There is a resident named Eric Foreman, and there is an arrogant doctor named Gary (close to Gregory) who has bad bedside manners, is full of insults for others, he makes bets and he even yells, "The game's afoot" to his interns. Hmmmmmm.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sunflower

    "When the air hits your brain you ain't never the same". How did I get through medical training without hearing this gem? Slightly reminiscent of "The House of God" (his Rules are just as funny as those in that book) but actually true, Vertosick describes incidents and episodes from his neurosurgical training which helped to shape him. What he says is truly funny in places, but he also writes about his thoughts (on becoming a neurosurgical psychopath, for example) in an entertaining but serious "When the air hits your brain you ain't never the same". How did I get through medical training without hearing this gem? Slightly reminiscent of "The House of God" (his Rules are just as funny as those in that book) but actually true, Vertosick describes incidents and episodes from his neurosurgical training which helped to shape him. What he says is truly funny in places, but he also writes about his thoughts (on becoming a neurosurgical psychopath, for example) in an entertaining but serious way. As the author himself says" This book is about the human aspects of disease, the human dimension of those who suffer from it, and the human dimension of those neophytes....who learn to treat it". Yes. The rest of the "Rules" 2/ The only minor operation is one that someone else is doing. 3/ If the patient isn't dead, you can always make him worse if you try hard enough. 4/ One look at the patient is better than a thousand phone calls from the nurse. 5/ Operating on the wrong patient or on the wrong side of the body makes for a very bad day.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rasha

    i'm not a expert with words.. so i cant find words to describe how great of a book this one was❤️❤️❤️ a must read book, not only for medical personnel but for all thanks dr Vertosick for sharing your experience with us 😊😊 i'm not a expert with words.. so i cant find words to describe how great of a book this one was❤️❤️❤️ a must read book, not only for medical personnel but for all thanks dr Vertosick for sharing your experience with us 😊😊

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)

    Oh man do I have a better understanding of the world of brain surgery and it’s Drs. “When air hits your brain, you are never the same!”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gy

    The truth is, we don't appreciate enough the careless period of life when we have no health issues. But, perhaps that's the way life goes and we're trying to enjoy life as much as we can before the process of senescence starts peaking up. We like to think about our species as the top creation of the Nature, some even claim we're divine creatures. Yet, there're many them undecided between whether we are divine creatures, or only a thermonuclear waste. This duality of everything transcends our com The truth is, we don't appreciate enough the careless period of life when we have no health issues. But, perhaps that's the way life goes and we're trying to enjoy life as much as we can before the process of senescence starts peaking up. We like to think about our species as the top creation of the Nature, some even claim we're divine creatures. Yet, there're many them undecided between whether we are divine creatures, or only a thermonuclear waste. This duality of everything transcends our comprehending of us and generally everything. While listening this book, I've unwillingly recalled my memories about the book "Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters" where first time in my life met genetic disorders I couldn't even imagine they exist! While reading the Genome, I thought I could make a fortune with them by making a movie for each 23 chromosomes. So, here is the point of this book that will move the reader, according to Mr. Cicero's criterion that every book has to satisfy "“Docere, Delectare, Movere,” or “To Teach, To Delight, To Move.” - to much deeply appreciate life, because despite we're made from elements that can only come to existence in supernovas and nebulas, there is nothing so fragile as a human. Mr. Vertosick book gives us an insight how really fragile we are and something about all we do that comes out from our instinct for survival and our struggle to live forever. All the stories from the life of a young medical student and the surgeon unit of the hospital are about our efforts to save and prolong life! This book, despite intended for medical... people, I think it's very useful for those non-medical as well. Good job! Cheers!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Lumos

    Who knew neurosurgeons could be so funny? I even texted some of the humorous bits to my best friend, and when I am fangirling that hard, it is never a bad sign. Dr. Frank T. Vertosick Jr. - which is such a badass name - does not act like your conventional doctor. I always picture doctors as cerebral, serious, and compassionate types. And there is nothing wrong with that, but Vertosick’s awkward and witty persona is like John Green’s, whom I adore. My only qualm is that Vertosick does not write t Who knew neurosurgeons could be so funny? I even texted some of the humorous bits to my best friend, and when I am fangirling that hard, it is never a bad sign. Dr. Frank T. Vertosick Jr. - which is such a badass name - does not act like your conventional doctor. I always picture doctors as cerebral, serious, and compassionate types. And there is nothing wrong with that, but Vertosick’s awkward and witty persona is like John Green’s, whom I adore. My only qualm is that Vertosick does not write textbooks. If he did, maybe I would be more inclined to learn the material and not just absent-mindedly memorize it during my library furloughs from humanity. “Failure instructs better than success.” So basically, Vertosick fell into neurosurgery by accident. He wanted to go into cardiac surgery but lacked the prerequisites. In my opinion, neurosurgery should not be something you go into by accident. Reading memoirs by neurosurgeons made me realize the strenuous and demanding nature of this medical speciality. For starters, the brain is not like any other organ. When you make a surgical error, there is no stitching it up and going back. Sometimes these mistakes are permanent, which is a lesson Vertosick learned the hard way. And yes, there were many times he regretted going into neurosurgery. Neurological diseases are complicated, but fascinating to study. It is crazy how just one small malfunction in the brain can cause debilitating effects to the rest of the body. When Vertosick discussed his patients, I felt like I was right there in the surgical unit with them. In his own words, he never amounted to a surgical psychopath who was void of all empathy towards his patients. There was never a point a family’s devastation about losing their son stopped impacting him. He believes just seeing a human as a brain is dehumanizing. It dilutes a body down to a corpse as opposed to a whole person. He tried to get to know his patients history, family, occupation, and background. This extra effort showed in his writing. I could tell he cared for his patients, each one of them, and I find it remarkable that an overexposure to death, violence, and trauma did not harden his heart. I never wanted this book to stop. I could read it forever. No jokes. It was a fascinating read, but I think I went through it too quickly. I need to sit down sometime to re-read it and take notes because Vertosick also is great at describing neuroanatomy and neurophysiology concepts. I love his sense of humor and I look forward to reading his other works.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Ferner

    Excellent account - for a lay reader - of what it's like to be a neurosurgeon in training. Not as elegantly written, perhaps, as Henry Marsh's Do No Harm, but equally illuminating if not more so. The detailed descriptions of operative procedures are stunningly good, and some of the case histories - e.g. the disaster of a ruptured aneurysm - read like nail-biting thrillers, often without happy outcomes. When things go wrong neurological disasters tend to be truly disastrous. One of the most inter Excellent account - for a lay reader - of what it's like to be a neurosurgeon in training. Not as elegantly written, perhaps, as Henry Marsh's Do No Harm, but equally illuminating if not more so. The detailed descriptions of operative procedures are stunningly good, and some of the case histories - e.g. the disaster of a ruptured aneurysm - read like nail-biting thrillers, often without happy outcomes. When things go wrong neurological disasters tend to be truly disastrous. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the insights it gives into how surgeons deal with inevitable failures by turning into what he calls everyday 'surgical psychopaths'. This is in order that they can survive - and so we can too.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julisa

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. Just wish it had come with pictures/diagrams so I could better understand what he was describing. But as the author says, "its not about the technology, it isn't even really about the medicine. Its about the human aspect of the disease, the human dimension of those who suffer from it, and the human dimension of those neophytes, like me, who learn to treat it." Thoroughly enjoyed this. Just wish it had come with pictures/diagrams so I could better understand what he was describing. But as the author says, "its not about the technology, it isn't even really about the medicine. Its about the human aspect of the disease, the human dimension of those who suffer from it, and the human dimension of those neophytes, like me, who learn to treat it."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nima Morgan

    everyone in the medical field should read this book...very fascinating. loved the detail and honesty.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    A neurosurgeon’s memoirs ranging from light-hearted tales of medical student life to the cold, hard acceptance that the perpetual cycle of life and death is something even the best physicians are ultimately powerless to alter. The story of the baby born with brain cancer was particularly heart-wrenching. The pregnant woman forced to choose between delivering her baby and dying from cancer, or aborting and saving herself was a close second. In situations like these, the only option for a doctor t A neurosurgeon’s memoirs ranging from light-hearted tales of medical student life to the cold, hard acceptance that the perpetual cycle of life and death is something even the best physicians are ultimately powerless to alter. The story of the baby born with brain cancer was particularly heart-wrenching. The pregnant woman forced to choose between delivering her baby and dying from cancer, or aborting and saving herself was a close second. In situations like these, the only option for a doctor to stay sane, apparently, is to accept that they are not the cause of an ailment, but they’re just trying to cure it, and sometimes failing even with the best of intentions. This is the kind of book that should make you appreciate the daily routine of crisis-free living most of us enjoy, but perhaps never cherish until too late. Be grateful every day you can.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    Incredible retelling of real cases experienced by the doctor during his neurosurgical residency.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nguyen Hoang Phong

    Real, gritty, human, humane.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jim Goodrich

    Simply fantastic. This is the kind of book that reminds me why I love to read. I have always enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the human brain, which is why I enjoy books by Oliver Sacks. They are filled with interesting and fascinating stories about patients with neurological disorders. This book has some of that, interesting neurological patient histories, but it also adds in lots of the intense drama of the operating room. The writing is top notch and transports you into the shoes of Simply fantastic. This is the kind of book that reminds me why I love to read. I have always enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the human brain, which is why I enjoy books by Oliver Sacks. They are filled with interesting and fascinating stories about patients with neurological disorders. This book has some of that, interesting neurological patient histories, but it also adds in lots of the intense drama of the operating room. The writing is top notch and transports you into the shoes of an aspiring neurosurgeon as he ascends through his years of residency. The procedures are fascinating (one surgery to remove a pituitary tumor is done through the nose) and one slip of the knife can determine the difference between a patient walking out of the recovery room and ending up paralyzed and intubated, or perhaps simply losing the ability to communicate using language ever again. You get a behind the scenes glimpse into the world of residency, told in a completely humble and honest way. Some of the stories are thrilling, other's so profoundly moving they hit you like a sledgehammer to the gut. Very highly recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    India M. Clamp

    Vertosick reticulates his residency (3rd year) and the operating room becomes familiar---like our living room--- yet it’s a place where expletives fly, ego is extinct and truth is conveyed emotionless. Surgeon saying “F-you cookie monster” brings little to no reaction. Realizations/confirmations: -Surgery should be the last option -Time is the panacea Vertosick is an astute storyteller and one of his tiny patients is a cute golden-haired baby and he says “she did not long for death, developed Vertosick reticulates his residency (3rd year) and the operating room becomes familiar---like our living room--- yet it’s a place where expletives fly, ego is extinct and truth is conveyed emotionless. Surgeon saying “F-you cookie monster” brings little to no reaction. Realizations/confirmations: -Surgery should be the last option -Time is the panacea Vertosick is an astute storyteller and one of his tiny patients is a cute golden-haired baby and he says “she did not long for death, developed dimples, and curly hair.” She was born with a brain tumor and (child of indigent parents) 6 months later she died. Her name was Rebecca. Health concerns us all. When the Air Hits your Brain: Tales of Neurosurgery is required reading for anyone who has/was/could be a patient and requisite for anyone in medicine. Sad, erudite and death imparts knowledge--including surgeons' (Vertosick) wistful fate. Buy, read and say hello to the tears.

  30. 5 out of 5

    A.

    This doctor tells stories of his life as he goes through medical school and onto practicing as a neurosurgeon. Very insightful and heartwarming. He talks about how much some patients affected him and gives the stories of successful surgeries as well as failures and how these events changed him. He talks about the butterfly effect in his life. He was late signing up for a college major and chose a path that led him to go go medical school. A few minutes earlier and he would have been a computer p This doctor tells stories of his life as he goes through medical school and onto practicing as a neurosurgeon. Very insightful and heartwarming. He talks about how much some patients affected him and gives the stories of successful surgeries as well as failures and how these events changed him. He talks about the butterfly effect in his life. He was late signing up for a college major and chose a path that led him to go go medical school. A few minutes earlier and he would have been a computer programmer. The author is very aware of his own fallibility and does a great job telling the stories of his life. This book is much better than I ever expected. The title is a little odd but the book is great.

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