The Bookworm Sez 5-17-10 | TheFencePost.com

The Bookworm Sez 5-17-10

Terri Schlichenmeyer
LaCrosse, Wis.

When the “Check Engine” light appeared on your dashboard, your first instinct was to panic. But the car was running fine, right? No problem, so you drove around for another week, or two, ignoring the warning signs. The resulting mechanic’s bill – and the lesson learned – cost you big.

When the pain stomped across your chest and shoulder, you panicked, then convinced yourself that everything’s fine, no problem. But humans don’t come with “Check Engine” lights and ignoring that warning could cost your life. In the new book “Healing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon” by Kathy E. Magliato, M.D., you’ll read about the greatest engines of all and a woman who fixes them.

Growing up as the second-oldest child in a German-Italian family in New York, Kathy Magliato knew the meaning of hard work. Her father’s paycheck didn’t stretch far enough, so Magliato and her siblings did odd jobs in the mornings, evenings, and all weekend throughout most of high school. Those jobs, meant to make ends meet, instilled a certain work ethic in Magliato.

The first time she held a human heart, she was a medical student. A cardiac surgeon asked for Magliato’s help during an emergency and when she put her hand around the beating organ, she was instantly awestruck. In that moment, she knew what her specialty would be.

But it wouldn’t be easy. Being a female cardiac surgeon is to be immersed in a Man’s World, since precious few women choose it as a career. Magliato endured (and endures) more than a little harassment. Several times, she was tested to see “just how much she could take.” She donned what she calls her “full-metal jacket,” set aside her womanness, and did what she needed to do. Still, she almost quit at least three times. Today, she often goes without sleep, meals, and rest, since surgeries can last for half a day or more.

In this book, Magliato writes about her career and the difficulties and joys of being a female cardiac surgeon. Without complaining, she explains what it’s like to work 24/7 and raise a family, too. And she writes about her most memorable cases: the people she saved and the ones she lost.

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And I loved every paragraph of it.

With self-assured conviction, a wicked sense of humor, and wry observations, author Kathy E. Magliato, M.D., takes her readers from a farm in New York to Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and California on a journey that she says fewer and fewer women choose to take, often (surprise) because of the low pay.

Along the way, Magliato gives her readers a real-life peek inside EDs, ORs, and human bodies as she reminds us that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. To drive home the truth, she includes heart-stopping facts at the end of her book.

If you’re looking for a wonderfully no-nonsense, humorous and humble memoir, you’ll want to look for this one. For doctors, future doctors, and anyone with a heart, “Healing Hearts” is a book to check.

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