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Summary

With poignant insight and humor, Frank Vertosick, Jr., MD, describes some of the greatest challenges of his career, including a six-week-old infant with a tumor in her brain, a young man struck down in his prime by paraplegia, and a minister with a .22-caliber bullet lodged in his skull. Told through intimate portraits of Vertosick's patients and unsparing-yet-fascinatingly detailed descriptions of surgical procedures, When the Air Hits Your Brain - the culmination of decades spent struggling to learn an unforgiving craft - illuminates both the mysteries of the mind and the realities of the operating room.

©2008 Frank T. Vertosick, Jr., MD (P)2016 Tantor

Critic reviews

"A riveting report that shatters the mystique of the brain surgeon as a wizard of technical prowess." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about When the Air Hits Your Brain

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Great book... SHOCKING NARRATOR!!!

The narrator sounded like a robot... was basically like having Siri narrate... truly awful! Book is great but he is so jarring!

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Good book

A collection of neurosurgery anecdotes during the author's residency programme. Well written, presents important ethical and professional challenges.

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Like the medical bits of E.R

Very enjoyable and humanistic, the reading is subtle and calm, the voice you'd hope to hear inside your brain doctors head !

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Good but I've read better

If you've an interest in this topic, read or listen to both of Henry Marsh 's books. The narration is more enjoyable and easier to engage with and the overall material is more interesting. This is a good listen but I found the narrator quite monotone and storyline rather cold throughout I struggled to relate.

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Great book

Interesting book about the life of a great person. Listened all the way through and very captivating.

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Absolutely gripping.

I listened to this intently, slightly unsure of what to expect as the narrator spoke the authors initial impressions of what the book wouldn't be and gave indications of name changes (which is to be expected when dealing with intimate medical procedures)... However, it was very engaging - I am glad I was able to get taken for the journey that the author has compiled based on their early career. I don't think my review can do it justice - it's a masterful mix of heart wrenching tragedy, amazing - bordering on miraculous - efforts in saving human life. You never know how each case the author meets will pan out and their narrative is too engaging - it can be nailbiting! An amazing drama - which is entirely real, save for the aforementioned name changes to protect identities. It strikes at the core of what you may consider your humanity - empathy, fear, optimism (and a touch of disgust if you're squeamish..!). Superb. I downloaded this book with the monthly token after seeing it advertised for something to listen to while I pottered about - no chance of that. I couldn't move - I was hooked and following along with the gestures and the facial expressions that the author has captured while telling their story.

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Brilliant

Incredibly good. Insightful, emotional, interesting and enlightening. Would read again, an absolute favourite on the first read and the second listen a few months later. I took lessons away from this book that will stay with me for life, not that it tries to cram any down your throat, but it was so honest and Vertosick’s turn of phrase is often simple and thereby impactful, that you may or may not find yourself thinking about the chapter you just read for a while. This book has made me excited to read again.

Yes, there was some cheesy sentences, but I entirely forgive it and it’s very minor and not throughout.

The narrator was great, it wasn’t a voice or performance that distracted from the book in my opinion.

I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading. This book was entirely engaging in my opinion.

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Loved this!

Comical, serious, educational.
Written with wit, reads like a thriller - the suspense in each chapter keeps you listening.
Dr. Vertosick’s self-deprecating humour makes his stories even more engaging.
Am straight onto looking for his other books.
Thank you, Dr. for this wonderfully written book.

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Brilliant!

Slow to start but picks up to be the best book i have listened to so far.

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Fabulous intriguing listen

Such a great audio book, so engaging and interesting to hear. The M.D. makes for a really good voice and such detail!

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  • Andrew
  • 15-04-17

Finished in 1 and 1/2 days

One of the best medical books written, imho. Empathetic, yet aware of irreconcilable errors. Funny and honest. I'm not sure I would ever want to go to him or someone trained by him in an ethically complex situation, but if my treatment only required skill and someone I could laugh with and relate to before I could be healed, I would go to him without hesitation.

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  • Largactil
  • 03-02-17

Sensitive and Enlightening

I appreciate the respectful and sensitive way the author, a neurosurgeon, talks about the patients who were a big part of his training and practice. I appreciate the enlightening level of detail about the procedures and customs that create doctors, good patient outcomes, and poor patient outcomes. I highly recommend this book.

58 people found this helpful

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  • Wendy Glosser
  • 19-12-16

Amazing!

Im an RN and learned so much from this but enjoyed most the victories achieved! I never wanted to put it down!

38 people found this helpful

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  • Aksana
  • 03-03-17

How a neurosurgeon deals with issues of the Brain and Heart

Whether good timing or destiny brought Dr. Vertosick into the field of neurosurgery, this book promises an explanation of the birth and evolution of a doctor who ends up in the right place. If doctors have a "calling" to their profession, it is most certainly demonstrated in this story.

Neurosurgeons may appear to be blunt, unapologetic superheroes (as they are better with matters of the brain, rather than the heart), but these professionals rise to the top of their fields , sparing no emotions, especially their own, to give people everything. Putting excessive emotions in the back seat is a part of caring for the patient who is a less than a millimeter away from death during an operation. Pushing the boundaries of what it is means to be alive, dead and human , they play with the most valuable organ in the human body hoping to preserve and salvage what it means to be human.

This book lifts away the blanket of mysticism that covers these heroic servants to show us that even superman fails, cries, shuts down, and breaks. I enjoyed every part of peeking over the surgeon's shoulder and into his heart.

48 people found this helpful

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  • Gordon Wilson
  • 18-09-16

Absolutely Riveting!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. The author does a great job of not just describing the profession, but also providing perspective and insight to the science of living as well.

What did you like best about this story?

Clearly, the individual cases are fascinating. But, I really enjoyed the author's profound insights on life and death, generally.

Which scene was your favorite?

The "alzheimer's patient" with the massive brain tumor.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No. But, it did cause me to think. And, I fear death less now.

Any additional comments?

Buy it. You'll not regret it.

52 people found this helpful

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  • Atis
  • 26-11-16

Just a great book :)

Loved it, serious but with nice humor. Narrator is really good. The best I heard so far.

17 people found this helpful

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  • FB
  • 03-05-17

C fifty-six? Really?!

As a physical therapist, I love a good medical story, and this is an excellent one. When the Air Hits Your Brain is interesting mix of medicine, the people who practice it, and the people they treat.
The narrator does a good job. Except - early in the book he repeatedly narrates, "C fifty-six". How did no one catch this?! There are only seven cervical vertebrae. The author was referencing the disc between the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae. As such, the narrator should have said, "C five-six". A minor quibble, and he only made a few other such errors,but I did find it a bit distracting.

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  • Sean Stagner
  • 20-09-16

Awesome story about a budding neurosurgeon

A very compelling account of the arduous life of a neurosurgical resident in training, which abounds with many poignant and touching scenes, with enough technical details that satisfies the curiosity of what they do in the OR and in the hospital.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 22-11-16

Joining the Ranks...

of Oliver Sacks and Richard Selzer, Vertosick renders a compelling account not only of neurology and its procedures, but also of what it is like to be a doctor in the most complicated and challenging branch of medicine. A must read.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Exploring
  • 16-03-17

About medical ethics

This book can be used to discuss medical ethics, although the chapters are about neurosurgery.

18 people found this helpful