Book Review: The Story of a Heart


A riveting and inspiring true story of two families linked by one heart—written by a bestselling author and palliative care doctor. 

The first of our organs to form and the last to die, the heart is both a simple pump and the symbol of what makes us human; as long as it continues to beat, there is hope. In The Story of a Heart, Dr. Rachel Clarke interweaves the history of medical innovations behind transplant surgery with the story of two children—one of whom desperately needs a new heart. 

One summer day, nine-year-old Keira Ball was in a terrible car accident and suffered catastrophic brain injuries. As the rest of her body began to shut down, her heart continued to beat. In an act of extraordinary generosity, Keira’s parents and siblings immediately agreed that she would have wanted to be an organ donor. Meanwhile nine-year-old Max Johnson had been in a hospital for nearly a year, valiantly fighting the virus that was causing his young heart to fail. When Max’s parents received the call they had been hoping for, they knew it came at a terrible cost to another family—in what Clarke calls “the brutal arithmetic of transplant surgery.” The act of Keira’s heart resuming its rhythm inside Max’s body was a medical miracle. But this was only part of the story. 

While waiting on the transplant list, Max had become the hopeful face of a campaign to change the UK’s laws around organ donation. Following his successful surgery, Keira’s mother saw the little boy beaming on the front page of the newspaper and knew it was the same boy whose parents had recently sent her an anonymous letter overflowing with gratitude for her daughter’s heart. The two mothers began to exchange messages and eventually decided to meet. This is the unforgettable story of how one family’s grief transformed into a lifesaving gift. Clarke relates the urgent journey of Keira’s heart and explores the history of the remarkable surgery that made it possible, stretching back over a century and involving the knowledge and dedication not just of surgeons but of countless nurses and technicians, immunologists and paramedics. The Story of a Heart is a testament to compassion for the dying, the many ways we honor our loved ones, and the tenacity of love.

My Review

I read this book in one day. It captured my attention and kept it until the end. I do briefly remember reading about Max's story on the internet and being captivated by his story even back then. 

Reading this book did make me think back to my oldest nephew. He was born premature at 6 months. He was 3 months early. He only weighed like 2 lbs and some ozs. He fit in the palm of my dad's hand. When he was full term, he did have to have heart surgery. Now, he is 21 and towers over me. 

I really cannot imagine with Keira’s family had to go through to make the sacrifice to allow Keira to be a organ donor. This is especially true for her father as he was the one that had to navigate through the various hospitals to bring his family back together. 

Also, Max carried so much weight on his young shoulders with trying to be brave for his family. The way that one life ended so another could continue and brought Max and Keira's families together is an amazing story. 

The medical knowledge that Dr. Clarke shared about the first heart transplant, donors, etc. was very informative and made for intriguing reading. it also helped to bring the whole book together. 


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