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Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Centuryby Kevin Fong
In Extreme Medicine, Dr. Fong recounts fascinating stories about the limits of human endurance and the dramatic medical procedures that save lives. From the Arctic to outer space, this is an eye-opening look at both the resilience of our bodies and breakthroughs in modern medicine.
Synopses & Reviews
Anesthesiologist, intensive care expert, and NASA adviser Kevin Fong explores how physical extremes push human limits and spawn incredible medical breakthroughs.
Little more than one hundred years ago, maps of the world still boasted white space: places where no human had ever trod. Within a few short decades the most hostile of the worlds environments had all been conquered. Likewise, in the twentieth century, medicine transformed human life. Doctors took what was routinely fatal and made it survivable. As modernity brought us ever more into different kinds of extremis, doctors pushed the bounds of medical advances and human endurance. Extreme exploration challenged the body in ways that only the vanguard of science could answer. Doctors, scientists, and explorers all share a defining trait: they push on in the face of grim odds. Because of their extreme exploration we not only understand our physiology better; we have also made enormous strides in the science of healing.
Drawing on his own experience as an anesthesiologist, intensive care expert, and NASA adviser, Dr. Kevin Fong examines how cutting edge medicine pushes the envelope of human survival by studying the human body's response when tested by physical extremes. Extreme Medicine explores different limits of endurance and the lens each offers on one of the systems of the body. The challenges of Arctic exploration created opportunities for breakthroughs in open heart surgery; battlefield doctors pioneered techniques for skin grafts, heart surgery, and trauma care; underwater and outer space exploration have revolutionized our understanding of breathing, gravity, and much more. Avant-garde medicine is fundamentally changing our ideas about the nature of life and death.
Through astonishing accounts of extraordinary events and pioneering medicine, Fong illustrates the sheer audacity of medical practice at extreme limits, where human life is balanced on a knife's edge. Extreme Medicine is a gripping debut about the science of healing, but also about exploration in its broadest sense — and about how, by probing the very limits of our biology, we may ultimately return with a better appreciation of how our bodies work, of what life is, and what it means to be human.
"British doctor and space enthusiast Fong launches a gripping 'exploration of the extreme tolerances of the human body' in this eloquent history of how 20th-century science and medicine moved us toward 'improved survival' — and with it a better understanding of life and death. He begins with a tale of a young Norwegian woman's incredible survival after deep hypothermia and moves on to describe the remarkable strides in burn care built on reconstructive surgery during WWII. Further along in his journey, Fong details the daring operations that opened 'the continent of the heart,' and how the polio epidemic — which touched Fong's own family — begat the fields of anesthesiology and intensive care. From the heart-pounding tale of how a fatal accident helped a grieving doctor develop life-saving trauma care to a moving depiction of the end of human life, these are thrilling stories that describe the limits of human physiology. But they have a more profound meaning as well, Fong finds. Whether it's the 1912 South Pole expedition that claimed the life of Robert Falcon Scott or the obstacles that await our species as we prepare for outer space travel, Fong concludes, 'We explore simply because we must.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A medical thriller of the first order." Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Anatomy and physiology are elegantly explained, not as abstract theory, but as counterpoint to gripping stories about survival against the odds. Real stories of life and near-death form the compelling backbone of the book. The book could easily have ended up as a series of Boy's Own tales of derring-do, but Fong elegantly balances heroism with rationalism, courage with compassion, shock with humility and humor." The Observer (UK)
About the Author
Kevin Fong holds degrees in medicine, astrophysics, and engineering and is an honorary senior lecturer in physiology at University College London. He has completed specialist training in anesthesia and intensive care medicine, has worked with NASA, and is the founder of the Centre for Altitude, Space, and Extreme Environment Medicine. Fong has created and starred in several documentaries for the BBC and Radio 4 in the UK. He writes for The Guardian and has a regular column in The Times (UK) Higher Educational magazine.
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