Although Professor Stephen Westaby was born with the necessary coordination and manual dexterity, it was a head trauma sustained during university that gifted him the qualities of an exceptional heart surgeon: qualities that are frequently associated with psychopathy. His thirty-five-year career has been characterised by fearlessness and ruthless ambition; leaving empathy at the hospital door as thousands of patients put their lives in his hands.
For heart surgeons, the inevitable cost of failure is death and in The Knife’s Edge, Westaby reflects on the unique mindset of those who are drawn to this exhilarating and often tragic profession. We discover the pioneers who grasped opportunities and took chances to drive innovation and save lives. Often difficult, uninhibited and fearless, theirs is a field constantly threatened by the risk of public failure.
Like those before him, Westaby refuses to draw the line in his search of a lifetime solution to problems of the heart. His determination is unerring – a steadfastness underpinned by his unusual mind. But as we glimpse into the future of cardiac surgery, for all its remarkable scientific advancement, one question remains: within the confines of socialised medical healthcare systems, how can heart surgeons – individuals often hardwired with avoidance of self-doubt, a penchant for glory and a flagrant disregard for authority – truly flourish?