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Heart Matters by Kathy Magliato, M.D.
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Heart Matters

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Heart Matters by Kathy Magliato, M.D.
Paperback $15.00
Jan 11, 2011 | ISBN 9780767930277

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Starred Review.  In her amazing memoir, Magliato belies the myth of surgeons as distant, cocky, robotic—and male. Yet she also bluntly explains why, as one of the world’s very few female heart surgeons, she once relied on the psychological “full metal jacket.” “Sometimes, it was the only thing holding me together,” she says of the distance she needed during an insanely grueling training in cardiac surgery. Magliato describes the bloody trenches of the operating theater; the vulnerable patients who are saved or who die; and the juggling of a demanding career with her role as wife and mother. However, it’s the doctor’s tender heart that makes her far more than a “healing robot.” Recounting one patient’s dying moments, Magliato acknowledges that she was unable to help the woman live but is proud that, at the least, “I gave her… a beautiful exit from this world. When it’s my time to go, that’s how I want to die. In the arms of my son.” Look for sobering statistics on women and heart disease, and an inspiring example of living and loving life to the fullest. (Jan.) 
—Publishers Weekly

When a female resident seeks entry into that rarefied boys’ club of heart surgeons, fasten your seat belt for a bumpy ride. Only her custom self-constructed “full-metal jacket” (“No one could get close to me. . . . I had a force field around me and I liked it that way”) worn as the first woman accepted into surgical training at Akron’s General Medical Center, held Magliato together. Her impoverished early childhood of working long hours affected her profoundly as she became an undaunted physician “utterly focused as a lead surgeon of a seventeen-hour artificial heart implant case.” Impassioned about the heart, she completed her cardiothoracic training in 1998; then followed a year in heart transplantation, finally achieving a “real job” with a paycheck at 36. But for her it’s not about money but “the thrill of touching the human heart” while balancing her professional life sans “jacket” and her personal roles as wife and mother, never easily but with hectic good humor, authentic caring, and in this book, fast-paced, smooth writing that never bores.
Whitney Scott, Booklist

Author Q&A

A Q&A with Kathy E. Magliato, MD, Author of:
HEALING HEARTS: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon

What were some of the obstacles you faced as a woman pursuing a career as a heart surgeon?
Simply being a woman was probably the single biggest obstacle I faced. Many of my colleagues discouraged me from trying to become a cardiac surgeon and, instead, encouraged me to go into more “female friendly” surgical specialties such as OB-GYN or plastic surgery. The complete lack of female cardiac surgeon mentors and role models was also challenging to overcome.

What’s the most challenging surgery you’ve performed? What’s the longest?
The most challenging (and longest) surgery that I performed was a 17-hour mechanical heart implant known as a VAD. The patient was a man who, as a teenager, underwent radiation for the treatment of cancer. The radiation scarred his chest so badly that it made the operation nearly impossible.

How does your faith influence your role as a doctor?
My faith is very calming to me, especially in times of a life or death crisis. When I need inner strength in an operating room or at a patient’s bedside, I pray. I believe that I have been given a gift—the ability to heal hearts—and I am humbled by that and truly thankful. This feeling of gratitude is reflected in how I treat patients: with gratitude, dignity, and respect.
As a mom, are you instilling heart healthy habits in your two young sons?
Absolutely! We are seeing alarming rates of cardiovascular disease in children and young adults due to obesity which leads to hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes—both of which are significant risk factors for heart disease and stroke. I have taught my sons which foods are “healthy for your body” and which are not. They will also point to a total stranger who is smoking and say, “You know, that’s dangerous for your body.” They could be the poster children for heart disease prevention.

What can women do to avoid heart disease?
Three important things:
1) Know that heart disease is the number one killer of women and that it is a serious health risk. It kills more women than all cancers COMBINED. Just like your annual mammogram and pelvic exam, you should be getting a regular cardiac check up from either your internist or a cardiologist.
2) Know the symptoms of heart disease in women and how they differ from men and DON’T IGNORE THEM.
3) Know your numbers: total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. If you are a diabetic, you should also know your blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C. If you know these numbers, you will own these numbers and strive to keep them in the normal range. Remember: heart disease, unlike cancer, is largely preventable.

Why did you decide to write this book?
I became so frustrated seeing women whose disease had simply progressed to the point where they were either at high risk for surgery or inoperable. If we can identify women with heart disease sooner than end-stage disease, we can save lives—and that’s what I’m in the business of doing.
So I initially wanted to write an informative book on heart disease in women. I wanted to include actual stories of women who have died from the disease to make the book less prescriptive and didactic and more entertaining to the reader. It was my agent who said that, in addition to telling the story of heart disease and the women who die from it, I needed to tell my story. This is how the book morphed into a memoir. I believe that there are a lot of women like me who are trying to balance a career and a family; women who are trying to have it all. And why shouldn’t we? So often women feel that they must choose between a career and a family and I am here to say that you don’t have to choose. If I can do it, anyone can!


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