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Publisher's Summary

With poignant insight and humor, Frank Vertosick, Jr., MD, describes some of the greatest challenges of his career, including a six-week-old infant with a tumor in her brain, a young man struck down in his prime by paraplegia, and a minister with a .22-caliber bullet lodged in his skull. Told through intimate portraits of Vertosick's patients and unsparing-yet-fascinatingly detailed descriptions of surgical procedures, When the Air Hits Your Brain - the culmination of decades spent struggling to learn an unforgiving craft - illuminates both the mysteries of the mind and the realities of the operating room.
©2008 Frank T. Vertosick, Jr., MD (P)2016 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A riveting report that shatters the mystique of the brain surgeon as a wizard of technical prowess." ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Largactil on 02-03-17

Sensitive and Enlightening

I appreciate the respectful and sensitive way the author, a neurosurgeon, talks about the patients who were a big part of his training and practice. I appreciate the enlightening level of detail about the procedures and customs that create doctors, good patient outcomes, and poor patient outcomes. I highly recommend this book.

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42 of 42 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Andrew on 04-15-17

Finished in 1 and 1/2 days

One of the best medical books written, imho. Empathetic, yet aware of irreconcilable errors. Funny and honest. I'm not sure I would ever want to go to him or someone trained by him in an ethically complex situation, but if my treatment only required skill and someone I could laugh with and relate to before I could be healed, I would go to him without hesitation.

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43 of 44 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Santiago on 11-22-16

Good book

A collection of neurosurgery anecdotes during the author's residency programme. Well written, presents important ethical and professional challenges.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By M. S. on 03-31-18

Interesting tales with odd language

Would you try another book written by Frank T Vertosick Jr. MD or narrated by Kirby Heyborne?

I wouldn't mind another book narrated by Kirby Heyborne, but Dr. Verlosick's humour and story telling was not my favourite.

If you’ve listened to books by Frank T Vertosick Jr. MD before, how does this one compare?

This was my first one.

What about Kirby Heyborne’s performance did you like?

It was steady and clear despite the complexity of many of the words and the subject matter.

Could you see When the Air Hits Your Brain being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

I would doubt it. It can't really decide what it is: Best I can gather, it's a collection of the most traumatic cases which left the biggest impression on the author. May be "The growth of a neurosurgeon" would have been a better title. On TV it would boil down to Scrubs with no humour, less drama, more swearing and substantially more death.

Any additional comments?

For some reason the combination of high brow medical lingo and constant swearing really jaded me. It made both seem completely inappropriate. However the biggest problem this book had was a lack of purpose and direction. It didn't seem intent on teaching the reader about neuroscience, it didn't want to show the realities of the profession as it skipped over all descriptions of normal every day happenings, it didn't entertain the reader, it didn't do anything really. The stories still seemed interesting, but the resulting lack of cohesion really brought the book down.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 04-21-18

must listen!

loved every minute! some times sad and thoughtful, other times funny. very interesting book! awesome career

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5 out of 5 stars
By Paul on 04-17-18

A compelling view into the neurosurgeon's world.

Would you consider the audio edition of When the Air Hits Your Brain to be better than the print version?

I haven not read the printed edition.

What was one of the most memorable moments of When the Air Hits Your Brain?

To get a glimpse into the moral, ethical and emotional struggles the author faces in his moments of failure gives one an insight into what attributes a really good practitioner must possess. It’s not his dexterity of hand, his brilliance in diagnosis or his recall of medical learning or case lore, but rather, his contrapuntal ability to care without caring too much.

What does Kirby Heyborne bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

I have not read the printed edition. However, Mr Heyborne reads the book with sensitivity and an obvious understanding of the underlying material (not the technical stuff - I mean the author's feelings). I only have one slight reservation about the reading - the attempt at performing various accents. I think if one cannot nail a New York or posh English accent, it’s probably better to leave it to the hearer’s imagination (as it is when one reads a book).

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

In the instances where the outcome is unfavourable, the stories evoke a visceral response which flows in two tributaries from each case narrative: one is the empathy one feels for the doctor with his internal struggles, and the other for the suffering and heartache the patients and their loved ones must endure. Where the outcome is positive, especially when it’s unexpectedly so, it’s hard not to feel a kind on vicarious triumph in the doctor’s achievements.

Any additional comments?

The story is really well paced and has a careful balance between the details of each case and the doctor's travails in learning. I really enjoyed his ontological musings and hearing of the agony one in his profession that surely cannot be avoided.

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