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

When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon

Joshua D. Mezrich. Harper, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-265620-9

Mezrich, a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health surgery professor, delivers an attention-grabbing and candid look at human organ transplantation. Often pulse-quickening, sometimes stomach-churning, and always immersive, Mezrich’s descriptions of the complicated, time-sensitive process of transferring livers, kidneys, and other healthy organs from deceased donors to recipients use examples from his own work as a transplant surgeon. Numerous, well-integrated asides on the evolving trial-and-error of organ transplant, from the early days in the late 19th century through advances made during WWII and after, complement his personal stories. In addition to being up-front about the fear of making a mistake during surgery—“It needs to be perfect. Otherwise the patient will pay a huge price, the donor won’t have given the gift of life, and you will be woken in the middle of the night by a shrill pager”—Mezrich describes the emotional attachment that can form between donor families and donor recipients. He notes how one patient, having received a heart from a young woman killed in a car accident, celebrates her donor’s birthday each year, “almost as if it were her own.” Success through perseverance is this book’s main theme, and Mezrich does a commendable job sharing his death-to-life experiences in a vital field. [em](Jan.) [/em]