After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and in one day, he turns
Jauhar's latest book, "Heart: A History," recounts several prominent moments in cardiovascular medicine's history, while giving readers a look into his personal experiences. In this exclusive interview, he told MedPage Today that he wants people to understand "that our emotional lives are deeply important and relevant to our biological hearts, that the metaphorical heart and the biological heart intersect.
What was the inspiration for your book? I've always been fascinated by the human heart, and I happen to have a malignant family history of heart disease. My paternal grandfather died suddenly in his early 50s very likely of an arrhythmia that was triggered by a heart attack and that trauma really affected my father deeply throughout his life.
And by extension that affected all of us, his children, our family. One of the reasons that it affected him so deeply is that it was so unexpected, and it was a sudden sort of catastrophic event and the heart is fairly unique among organs for its ability to cause a sudden catastrophic death.
No other organ can do that. So, when I was growing up, I sort of had this fear of the heart as an executioner, and so I would monitor my own heartbeat and I would worry about my father's heart. And I knew that we had this family history, and then later my maternal grandfather died suddenly of a sudden arrhythmia that was triggered by a heart attack.
But his death occurred when he was 83, and it was a very different outcome. My mother, though she was sad that he died suddenly, she was actually somewhat relieved that he passed away when he was functioning at full force, reading the newspaper, enjoying life.
And so that forced me to reconsider what it means to have a sudden death via the heart. The book explores that idea, too. Can you discuss how you managed writing this book and practicing, and why it's important for doctors to carve out time for endeavors that are meaningful to them?
Writing has always been a way for me to process what I experienced in my professional life and to think about it and to try to understand it; sometimes to reconcile myself to it.
So, all those factors come into play to drive me to write. I started writing towards the end of medical school, and I really started becoming productive during my internship at New York Hospital.
I was in Manhattan and a lot of what I was doing was thinking about what bothered me in my experience. For example, I had a patient as an intern who had swallowing difficulties, and so, the plan was to put in a feeding tube, but he didn't want a feeding tube.
In fact, he said that one of the great pleasures of his life was tasting food. He even liked hospital food! But the team had decided that he didn't really have the capacity to make the decision not to have a feeding tube.
The alternative was trying to eat via his mouth and swallowing and risking developing an aspiration pneumonia, and so that case really bothered me.
Why are we doing this, when it's going to interfere with and actually turn his life upside down and compromise what he considers to be a good quality of life? It was that sort of thing that I would think about a lot and then would write about, and so to answer your question, I write about what I experience in my professional life.
I think it's important for doctors, indeed all professionals, to find something that they're passionate about outside of work. Especially medicine today when there's so much burnout.
I know of doctors who spend as much or more time in their avocational pursuits than I do in mine. Constructing very intricate models, for example. I have a doctor acquaintance who used to be an architect and is really interested in applying architectural ideas to hospital design.
I know physicians who are very interested in writing or in media. There are so many things, and many colleagues who are just as passionate about spending time with their families and with their children, as am I.
It's just really important, I think, to find something that allows you to get away from the pressure and the grind that is modern medical practice. In your research for this book, can you talk about something that surprised you or that might surprise another cardiologist who picks up the book?
I think that one of the ideas that I try to develop in the book is that the heart was always considered the seat of the soul and the source of the emotions.
That was a fairly common idea in the ancient world. And then beginning in the late renaissance and going into the modern age, the heart was transformed into a machine that could be manipulated.
One of the reasons it took so long, the heart had an almost supernatural quality that creates all these taboos around trying to manipulate or fix it.Sno-Isle Libraries and the Sno-Isle Foundation are proud to offer book discussion kits.
Each kit includes 10 copies of a single title. Resources for book discussions may be found at publishers websites, bound into some editions of the book.
So, all those factors come into play to drive me to write. I started writing towards the end of medical school, and I really started becoming productive during my internship at New York Hospital. Click here to access this free training. Psychic Development Program Reviews Product Review: Soul Realignment Akashic Records Certification course by Andrrea Hess.
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