Essential Reading: Walk on Water

Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children’s Lives

WOW cover picIn 2003, journalist Michael Ruhlman published Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children’s Lives. Ruhlman shadowed one of the best surgeons in the world, Dr. Roger Mee, who had started the now-renowned Cleveland Clinic’s pediatric cardiac center.  Ruhlman was given unprecedented access, from the operating room to families’ living rooms, and provides a 360-degree view of the world of pediatric cardiac surgery.

Ruhlman is a skilled writer and investigator and a parent himself, and Walk on Water is a smart, sensitive, engaging account of children’s heart surgery from his figurative bird’s-eye view. You get the sense that this is the book this insightful, intelligent father would want to have if he were in the shoes of the parents he is observing.

As parents of our own heart warrior who read the book as we sat next to our daughter’s crib in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, we can attest to its value as an indispensable guidebook in navigating the brave, new world into which families of heart warriors are thrust.

It provided us with a baseline in understanding the severity of our daughter’s condition and taught us to better interpret everything that was going on around us, empowered us to ask smart questions, read our doctors’ non-verbal communications and better calibrate our emotional responses when confronted with the constant stream of stresses and provocations that come with inhabiting a box in the PICU.

There is simply no other resource like it out there and we wish all doctors would hand a copy of the book to parents when giving a CCHD diagnosis.

The field of pediatric cardiology has advanced a lot in the decade since the book was originally published, and it is always worth following up with your doctor regarding any statistics in the book, but we cannot emphasize enough how valuable this book was for us during our own 8 weeks in PICU.

The Miracle of Saving Children’s Lives

By Michael Ruhlman

Described by one surgeon as “soul-crushing, diamond-making stress,” surgery on congenital heart defects is arguably the most difficult of all surgical specialties. Drawing back the hospital curtain for a unique and captivating look at the extraordinary skill and dangerous politics of critical surgery in a pediatric heart center, Michael Ruhlman focuses on the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, where a team of medical specialists—led by idiosyncratic virtuoso Dr. Roger Mee—work on the edge of disaster on a daily basis. Walk on Water offers a rare and dramatic glimpse into a world where the health of innocent children and the hopes of white-knuckled families rest in the hands of all-too-human doctors.