Every Second Counts: The Race to Transplant the First Human Heart

Donald McRae, Author . Putnam $25.95 (356p) ISBN 978-0-399-15341-9

Although Christiaan Barnard (who died in 2001) is venerated as the first to successfully transplant a human heart, on December 3, 1967, McRae shows that he was only one of four heart surgeons who pioneered this miraculous specialty from 1958 through 1968. The South African Barnard hadn't toiled in research labs, but, according to McRae, appropriated the work of three Americans and, in a period of debate over whether to define death by the brain's or the heart's cessation, he took a beating heart from a brain-dead donor. McRae portrays Barnard as a rural Afrikaner with an inferiority complex, a "lothario" with a deeply troubled personal life and a publicity hound who delegated postoperative patient care to others as he hobnobbed with celebrities and the media. As McRae, an award-winning London-based sports writer (Heroes Without a Country: America's Betrayal of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens ), demonstrates in this top-notch journalistic feat that elucidates complicated medical procedures, the Americans whom Barnard bested were medical giants. Norman Shumway in California and Richard Lower of Virginia were masters of transplant and rejection research, and New York's Adrian Kantrowitz would eventually develop the balloon pump that saved hundreds of thousands of lives. (June 1)

Reviewed on: 04/17/2006
Release date: 06/01/2006
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