Summer is a good time to catch up on your reading, well, at least for schoolteachers on vacation.
I thought I'd share the reading I'm doing over the summer. The first one is here:
Heart disease took her mom’s life
Mimi Guarneri is a cardiologist who’s written a riveting book about her life’s journey towards compassionate medicine. In it, with the skills of a person who majored in English literature as an undergrad, she tells her own story.
Heart disease took her mom’s life when Guarneri was only eight years old and heart disease killed her dad, too, less than 10 years later. Yes, she connects the obvious dots–she became a heart doctor in an unconscious effort to heal her mom and dad.
But The Heart Speaks is more than a story about the author. She also relates the stories of the many patients she’s treated as a top cardiologist. Guarneri is the founder and medical director of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California. (Full disclosure: Guarneri completed her training in cardiology at NYU medical school where my daughter is a med student.)
Guarneri’s journey takes us far beyond the limited view of the heart you learned in school, you know, the familiar myth that the heart is only a simple organ, basically a tough muscle, a mechanical pump at the center of the circulatory system.
Guarneri compares the heart to a complex flower in the center of our chest that is intelligent, sensitive to emotional and social nuance, and is multidimensional in a spiritual sense. Through stories of her patients, many of whom receive state-of-the-art stent and/or bypass procedures, she explores the language of the heart in chapters on stress, anger, depression, grief, and, yes, angelic revelation.
She relates, for example, the remarkable recovery of a church organist, Milly, who suffered severe atrial fibrillation that doctors couldn’t cure. Milly visited a faith healer and her condition improved so dramatically that Guarneri hardly recognized Milly a week later. She relates other stories of heart transplant recipients whose musical and gustatory preferences change to resemble those of the heart donors.
In the final section of the book she explores the heart in a larger context, as a little brain, the intuitive intelligence that connects us to all other life and to the universe itself.
I read the The Heart Speaks, my first summer reading, in one sitting—with just a break for lunch—and recommend it to anyone interested the human organism works.