2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I wish to add my voice to the growing number of readers who have given this book 5 stars. As the previous reviewer named "bookish" states, "a great man deserves a great memoir," and Dr. Cooley definitely has a great memoir in this delightful volume. His writing style is anything but flat or monotonous, as "bookish" claims. Rather, it's charming and conversational. Because Amazon shoppers aren't currently able to "look inside" this book to judge for themselves, I will include a few quotes:
Page 16: "One day, after a heavy rain, some neighbor boys joined [my brother] Ralph and me in a mud-ball fight. Bored with targeting each other, we turned our attention to the cars passing in front of our house. As we happily splattered one vehicle after another with mud, one of our victims stopped his car and came after us yelling. Hearing a commotion, Daddy came outside to investigate. He quickly cut off the driver's complaints. 'My boys would never do such a thing,' he insisted. 'Get off my property!' Unfortunately, it was only a brief reprieve. Daddy took us in the house and spanked us with the leather strap that he used to sharpen his straight razor. From then on, automobiles driving by our house enjoyed safe passage."
Page 70: "[In proposing to Louise], I was so nervous that I dropped the ring. Her boxer dog, Clipper, picked it up in his mouth. I had to grab the dog in a stranglehold to keep him from swallowing the ring. I managed to retrieve it from his mouth and give it to Louise. This was not a very romantic beginning to our engagement."
Pages 101-102: [In 1955, Dr. Cooley and his colleague Dan McNamara went to the University of Minnesota to observe open heart surgery there. Their host, Dr. Walt Lillehei, took them out for steaks, drinks, and dancing the night before they were scheduled to watch him operate.] "Because hotel rooms were scarce, Dan and I were sharing a room that had only one double bed. The next morning, I woke up about 8:30 or 9:00, feeling awful and wondering why there was a man in my bed. . . . We arrived in the operating room about 9:30. Walt Lillehei and his small team, mostly residents, were planning to correct a ventricular septal defect. The patient, a child, was on one table, and the father was on an adjacent table, already hooked up for cross-circulation. But Walt was nowhere in sight. At about 10:00, he finally arrived--looking clammy, sweaty, and in need of medical attention himself. Although I was concerned about both the patient and the father, Walt and his team performed the operation superbly and successfully."
Yes, the book tends to be self-absorbed--that's the nature of a memoir--but its tone is far from self-aggrandizing. On the contrary, Dr. Cooley tells his life story with restraint, graciousness, and humility. I saw no trace of the disparagement of Dr. Michael DeBakey that several other reviewers have complained about. Dr. Cooley had some criticisms about most of his mentors--including Blalock, Brock, DeBakey, and Lillehei--and also about himself. However, he continued to hold each of his mentors in high esteem and to be grateful for their influence on his career. On page 198, he says, "Looking back, I will always be indebted to Mike [DeBakey] for giving me a faculty position at Baylor and the opportunity to continue my academic career. During the early years, we were close, and I usually enjoyed being his colleague. As a mentor, he was generous with his time, and I learned a great deal from him that shaped my career. Ironically, I think that our historic rivalry enhanced his reputation as well as mine, serving both of our careers well. Most of all, our competitiveness benefited the Texas Medical Center and its patients. For me, that is the greatest good that could have come from it all."
By reading Dr. Cooley's memoir, I gained a new appreciation for him and all the other cardiovascular pioneers he describes. The book also provides a lot of general information about heart disease and its treatment. It deserves a wide audience among both medical and lay readers.