A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon
Crown Archetype, Hardcover, 9780767930260, 272pp.
Publication Date: January 26, 2010
An inspiring, surprising, sometimes shocking, and ultimately deeply informative memoir of the high-stakes, high-pressured life of a female heart surgeon
Dr. Kathy Magliato is one of the few female heart surgeons practicing in the world today. She is also a member of an even more exclusive group—those surgeons specially trained to perform heart transplants. Healing Hearts is the story of the making of a surgeon who is also a wife and mother. Dr. Magliato takes us into her highly demanding, physically intense, male-dominated world and shows us how she masterfully works to save patients’ lives every day.
In her memoir, we come to know many of those patients whose lives Dr. Magliato has touched: a baby born with a hole in her heart, a ninety-four-year-old woman with a lethal tear in her aorta, and a thirty-five-year-old movie producer who saves her own life by recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack. Along the way, Dr. Magliato sheds light on the too often unrecognized symptoms of a heart attack and cardiovascular disease—the number one killer of women in America—and the specific measures that can be taken to prevent it.
As we begin to see what it takes for Dr. Magliato to heal hearts day after day, we come to understand a more human side of the medical profession. Dr. Magliato celebrates with her patients when they overcome their disease and personally mourns when they die as a result of it. She understands deeply the pain and suffering that heart disease can wreak on patients as well as on their families. Healing Hearts is not only her story, it is also the story of everyone affected by heart disease—roughly one in three Americans.
Dr. Magliato acquaints us with the day-to-day realities of her life and work. We see her skillfully juggle a full and happy family life as the wife of a liver transplant surgeon (they have bedside tables cluttered with pagers and cell phones that ring throughout the night) and the mother of two young boys. We also see the toll that being a female pioneer can take, as well as the rewards of such demanding work. She, like many working women, is striving to have it all.
Dr. Magliato’s powerful and moving memoir demonstrates her passion and commitment to her family, her patients, and her profession and reveals that, at the end of a long day, it’s our hearts that matter most.
Kathy E. Magliato, MD, is currently the director of women’s cardiac services at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and an attending cardiothoracic surgeon at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California, where she is developing a women’s heart center to address the cardiac needs of female patients. She lives in Pacific Palisades with her husband and their two children.
Starred Review. In her amazing memoir, Magliato belies the myth of surgeons as distant, cocky, robotic—and male. Yet she also bluntly explains why, as one of the world's very few female heart surgeons, she once relied on the psychological “full metal jacket.” “Sometimes, it was the only thing holding me together,” she says of the distance she needed during an insanely grueling training in cardiac surgery. Magliato describes the bloody trenches of the operating theater; the vulnerable patients who are saved or who die; and the juggling of a demanding career with her role as wife and mother. However, it's the doctor's tender heart that makes her far more than a “healing robot.” Recounting one patient's dying moments, Magliato acknowledges that she was unable to help the woman live but is proud that, at the least, “I gave her... a beautiful exit from this world. When it's my time to go, that's how I want to die. In the arms of my son.” Look for sobering statistics on women and heart disease, and an inspiring example of living and loving life to the fullest. (Jan.)
When a female resident seeks entry into that rarefied boys’ club of heart surgeons, fasten your seat belt for a bumpy ride. Only her custom self-constructed “full-metal jacket” (“No one could get close to me. . . . I had a force field around me and I liked it that way”) worn as the first woman accepted into surgical training at Akron’s General Medical Center, held Magliato together. Her impoverished early childhood of working long hours affected her profoundly as she became an undaunted physician “utterly focused as a lead surgeon of a seventeen-hour artificial heart implant case.” Impassioned about the heart, she completed her cardiothoracic training in 1998; then followed a year in heart transplantation, finally achieving a “real job” with a paycheck at 36. But for her it’s not about money but “the thrill of touching the human heart” while balancing her professional life sans “jacket” and her personal roles as wife and mother, never easily but with hectic good humor, authentic caring, and in this book, fast-paced, smooth writing that never bores.
— Whitney Scott, Booklist