“The surgical interventions in these pages are dizzying, but the fact that Jay Wellons can write as well as he can operate provides a whole other level of amazement.”—Ann Patchett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth
“A powerful and moving account of the intense joys and sorrows of being a pediatric neurosurgeon.”—Henry Marsh, New York Times bestselling author of Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, Publishers Weekly
Tumors, injuries, ruptured vascular malformations—there is almost no such thing as a non-urgent brain surgery when it comes to kids. For a pediatric neurosurgeon working in the medical minefield of the brain—in which a single millimeter in every direction governs something that makes us essentially human—every day presents the challenge, and the opportunity, to give a new lease on life to a child for whom nothing is yet fully determined and all possibilities still exist.
In All That Moves Us, Dr. Jay Wellons pulls back the curtain to reveal the profoundly moving triumphs, haunting complications, and harrowing close calls that characterize the life of a pediatric neurosurgeon, bringing the high-stakes drama of the operating room to life with astonishing candor and honest compassion. Reflecting on lessons learned over twenty-five years and thousands of operations completed on some of the most vulnerable and precious among us, Wellons recounts in gripping detail the moments that have shaped him as a doctor, as a parent, and as the only hope for countless patients whose young lives are in his hands.
Wellons shares scenes of his early days as the son of a military pilot, the years of grueling surgical training, and true stories of what it’s like to treat the brave children he meets on the threshold between life and death. From the little boy who arrived at the hospital near death from a gunshot wound to the head, to the eight-year-old whose shredded nerves were repaired using suture as fine as human hair, to the brave mother-to-be undergoing fetal spinal cord surgery, All That Moves Us is an unforgettable portrait of the countless human dramas that take place in a busy modern children’s hospital—and a meditation on the marvel of life as seen from under the white-hot lights of the operating room.
Wellons, chief of the division of pediatric neurosurgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, shares in his powerful and intimate debut his stories of "remarkable children and our journeys together." There's Alyssa, a bullied teen who attempted suicide with her sheriff father's service revolver and whose mother learned of the incident because she worked at the 911 dispatch center. Permanently blinded by the gunshot, Alyssa and her parents insisted that Wellons tell her story, "so that people might understand that social bullying is real." Leonard, meanwhile, an eight-year-old who lost muscle function after a space heater explosion, asked Wellons pre-op for "the whole miracle" despite the surgery's risks: the procedure was a success. In another tense episode, Wellons operated on a baby born three months early. His patients are the centerpieces of each chapter, and together these accounts make for an awe-inspiring look at their resilience rather than of his obvious surgical skills; indeed, a friend had warned him that "neurosurgeons are... egotistical," but in these pages Wellons steers well clear of that. His writing is top-tier and consistently breathtaking: "For the child, it was simply a chance to heal and live; theirs is the most innocent view. I hurt; now I hurt no longer." Medical memoirs don't come much better than this.