Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead

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9781469090993: Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead
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[Read by Walter Dixon]

Fascinating, thought-provoking, and (believe it or not) funny, Shocked is perfect for those looking for a prequel - and a sequel - to Mary Roach's Stiff or for anyone who likes to ponder the ultimate questions of life and death.

Not too long ago, there was no coming back from death. But now, with revolutionary medical advances, death has become just another serious complication.

As a young medical student, Dr. David Casarett was inspired by the story of a two-year-old girl named Michelle Funk. Michelle fell into a creek and was underwater for over an hour. When she was found she wasn't breathing, and her pupils were fixed and dilated. That drowning should have been fatal. But after three hours of persistent work, a team of doctors and nurses was able to bring her back. It was a miracle.

If Michelle could come back after three hours of being dead, what about twelve hours? Or twenty-four? What would it take to revive someone who had been frozen for one thousand years? And what does blurring the line between life and death mean for society?

In Shocked, Casarett chronicles his exploration of the cutting edge of resuscitation and reveals just how far science has come. He begins in the eighteenth century, when early attempts at resuscitation involved public displays of barrel rolling, horseback riding (sort of), and blowing smoke up the patient's various orifices. He then takes us inside a sophisticated cryonics facility in the Arizona desert, a darkroom full of hibernating lemurs in North Carolina, and a laboratory that puts mice into a state of suspended animation. The result is a spectacular tour of the bizarre world of doctors, engineers, animal biologists, and cryogenics enthusiasts trying to bring the recently dead back to life.

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About the Author:

David Casarett, MD, is a physician, researcher, and tenured associate professor at the Perelman Schol of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. His studies have included more than ten thousand patients and have resulted in more than one hundred articles and book chapters, published in such leading medical journals as the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. His many awards include the prestigious US Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

The Big Mac Rule of Resuscitation and the Search for the Limits of Life

When I was a kid, long before I contemplated going to medical school, the television in our living room was the sole source of all of my medical knowledge. Before I ever dissected a cadaver or listened to a heart, shows like M*A*S*H; St. Elsewhere; Doogie Howser, MD; Chicago Hope; and ER taught me how to be a doctor. Specifically, they taught me that doctors are firm, decisive, quick-thinking, and almost always successful.

Television also taught me how to bring someone back to life. Fortunately, that was a simple lesson for an eight-year-old. The television version of resuscitation followed a script that was mercifully predictable, and that predictability was helpfully marked by several reliable guideposts along the way.

First, someone’s heart would stop. That cessation of a heartbeat was usually heralded by unmistakable signs, including but not limited to gasping, choking, eye rolling, and chest clutching.

Next, and typically without any discernible delay whatsoever, everyone within hailing distance would descend on the newly dead character. One of these self-appointed rescuers would then place two hands on the character’s chest and bounce up and down heroically. It was also at about this point that another rescuer—usually a tall, handsome doctor—performed a strange sort of kissy procedure with his mouth, guaranteed to provoke slack-jawed fascination in a boy not yet in middle school, especially if the victim was a woman. Finally, if the episode were really top-notch, someone would produce a pair of paddles, apply them to the victim’s chest, and yell, “Clear!” (At some point, I developed the unshakable conviction that this shouted incantation had some ill-defined yet essential electrical effect on the victim’s heart. I have a hazy recollection of standing over my freshly late hamster one sad morning and yelling, “Clear!” repeatedly in hopes of encouraging little Frankie to rejoin the living. Alas, Frankie was unfamiliar with the rules of televised resuscitations, and he remained persistently and unambiguously deceased.)

Then there would be a strategic yet wholly incongruous commercial break, after which we’d be back in the thick of things. On cue, the victim would tire of being kissed by a tall, handsome doctor and would wake up. Or, occasionally—and just for variety’s sake—the handsome doctor would tire of kissing a person who was becoming increasingly dead. Then he would stand up, say something solemn, and stride off purposefully toward the next crisis.

It was thanks to these scenes that I developed a deep and lasting impression of how resuscitation works when people try to die. For instance, I came to believe that resuscitation works. Maybe not always, but almost always. It seemed as though even if you were dead, as long as there was a good-looking doctor nearby, you wouldn’t be dead for long.

I also became convinced that if resuscitation is going to work, it’s going to work very, very fast. A perceptive watcher of these shows would conclude that the fate of a newly dead person is determined in the span of time that it takes to learn about the merits of cookies made by Keebler Elves or a sing-along of the McDonald’s Big Mac jingle. Let’s call this the Big Mac rule of resuscitation. By then, your victim is probably wide-awake and hugging the rescuers. If she isn’t, then you might as well switch channels.

So I persisted in my fantasies about resuscitation for quite some time.

But then a girl named Michelle died.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781591846710: Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead

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ISBN 10:  1591846714 ISBN 13:  9781591846710
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9781617230226: Shocked: A Doctor Investigates the Blurred Lines Between Life and Death

Current, 2015
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