Surgeons, Saints and Psychopaths

The Epic Story of Heart Surgery
By Stephen Westaby

This account of the heroic efforts to operate meaningfully within the defomed heart constitutes one of the greatest stories ever told. The surgeons were deemed psychopaths, the body count enormous. Yet, with peristence and innovation, those surgeons and their hurt-lung machines ultimately triumphed. Professor Stephen Westaby trained with, then worked alongside, the pioneers on both sides of the Atlantic allowing him to write the most accurate, most exclusive, most insightful history of this taxing specialty.

About Stephen Westaby


Operating on both adults and children, Professor Stephen Westaby is recognised worldwide as one of the most technically skilled and innovative surgeons of his generation. As a young trainee in the USA with a degree in biochemistry he identified the molecular mechanisms and root cause of the damaging effects of the heart-lung machine. In 1986 Westaby was appointed to create a new cardiothoracic centre in Oxford. With restricted facilities Westaby initiated the internationally acclaimed ‘cardiac surgery without intensive care’ programme. As a result the unit rapidly expanded from the smallest to become the second largest cardiac centre in the UK.

His quest to find a mechanical alternative to scarce donor organs led to the longest survivor with any type of artificial heart following an operation performed in Oxford. High speed rotary blood pumps are now accepted as a solution for terminally ill heart failure patients.Westaby has produced twelve surgical textbooks and more than three hundred peer reviewed papers in medical journals. He has trained numerous surgeons around the world on and has received honours from the USA, China, Russia and Japan. In 2019 he was the first Western doctor learn about Covid when on a visit to Wuhan. He lives outside Oxford.

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