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Publisher's Summary

Little more than 100 years ago, maps of the world still boasted white space: places where no human had ever trod. Within a few short decades the most hostile of the world's environments had all been conquered. Likewise, in the 20th century, medicine transformed human life. Doctors took what was routinely fatal and made it survivable. As modernity brought us ever more into different kinds of extremes, doctors pushed the bounds of medical advances and human endurance. Extreme exploration challenged the body in ways that only the vanguard of science could answer.
Doctors, scientists, and explorers all share a defining trait: They push on in the face of grim odds. Because of their extreme exploration we not only understand our physiology better; we have also made enormous strides in the science of healing.
Drawing on his own experience as an anesthesiologist, intensive care expert, and NASA adviser, Dr. Kevin Fong examines how cutting-edge medicine pushes the envelope of human survival by studying the human body's response when tested by physical extremes. Extreme Medicine explores different limits of endurance and the lens each offers on one of the systems of the body.
The challenges of Arctic exploration created opportunities for breakthroughs in open-heart surgery; battlefield doctors pioneered techniques for skin grafts, heart surgery, and trauma care; underwater and outer space exploration have revolutionized our understanding of breathing, gravity, and much more. Avant-garde medicine is fundamentally changing our ideas about the nature of life and death.
Through astonishing accounts of extraordinary events and pioneering medicine, Fong illustrates the sheer audacity of medical practice at extreme limits, where human life is balanced on a knife's edge.
Extreme Medicine is a gripping debut about the science of healing, but also about exploration in its broadest sense - and about how, by probing the very limits of our biology, we may ultimately return with a better appreciation of how our bodies work, of what life is, and what it means to be human.
©2014 Kevin Fong, M.D. (P)2014 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A medical thriller of the first order." ( Kirkus Starred Review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Kathy on 09-24-14

Face transplants and interstellar travel?

This audiobook was everything the description promised and more. It is about the boundaries we humans are always pushing, and the medicine and treatments that have necessarily arisen as a result.

It doesn't sound very interesting to you? It certainly is! It covers, among others topics, what happens to us when we push the boundaries of travel to the far reaches of the Arctic, attempt deep sea diving, and even how our bodies might respond physically to interstellar travel. I especially enjoyed where the author described his days working for NASA.

Equally fascinating were the discussions of the advent of heart surgery, effective burn treatment, and the first face transplant in the U.S. I could go on but if this seems interesting, get this book! It is a fast and very easy listen with a good narrator.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By CHET YARBROUGH on 07-25-14


Kevin Fong, a physician, believes exploration and extreme medicine are linked. Fong’s book, "Extreme Medicine", links exploration and medical advance with real-life stories of adventure, discovery; failure and success. He argues that exploration of the unknown transforms medicine.

Fong begins with a story of frostbite in the early 20th century. The two edges of subzero weather are revealed; one edge destroys while the other preserves life. Fong recounts the life of a mariner that dies from frostbite that slowly saps life from his limbs, his brain, and finally his heart. Then Fong tells of a skier’s accident in freezing weather that leaves her clinically dead for three hours. The skier lives even though 20 minutes without an operating autonomic system means death.

Ethics come into issue in a doctor’s sale of extreme medicine to desperate patients. Life is always, to quote a previous book review, a matter of “me before you”. Doctors are human. Money, power, and prestige affect their decisions just as they affect all human decisions. The difference is that the patient has more to lose than the doctor.

This is not to deny the theme of Fong’s book. Living life is, by nature, an exploration. Human beings who choose to explore extremes do advance knowledge. Knowledge drawn from exploration does transform medicine. Knowledge transforms everything in life. Life on earth is finite. With exploration, life is potentially infinite.

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14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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