Festival of Ideas May 2017

Steve Westaby

Festival of Ideas: Steve Westaby

Fragile Lives

The balance between life and death is so delicate, and the heart surgeon walks that rope between the two. But in the operating room there is no time for such contemplation or philosophy. There is no time for doubt. It is blood, gore, rib-retractors and pumping the vital organ with your bare hand to squeeze the life back into it. An off-day can have dire consequences – this job has a steep learning curve, and the cost is measured in human life.

Steve Westaby took all the chances, ignored all the rules and pushed the boundaries to make heart surgery what it is today. At the forefront of pioneering cardiac technology, and having carried out 11,000 heart operations over his career, he has seen it all. Now he details some of his most remarkable and poignant cases, such as ‘the pulseless man’, a tiny baby who silently suffered multiple heart attacks, a woman who lived the nightmare of locked-in syndrome after surgery and a man whose life was powered by a battery for eight years.

He offers an exceptional insight into the exhilarating and sometimes tragic world of heart surgery, and how it feels to hold someone’s life in your hands.

Speaker biography:

Steve Westaby is a world-famous heart surgeon, renowned for being the first surgeon in history to fit a patient with a new type of artificial heart. During his 35-year career as a surgeon he worked at several of the UK’s top hospitals and performed over 11,000 heart operations. He was featured in the BBC documentary Your Life in Their Hands, a long-running series on the subject of surgery. He is currently a heart surgeon at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Followed by book signing.