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Exhale: Hope, Healing, and a Life in Transplant

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Exhale is the riveting memoir of a top transplant doctor who rode the emotional rollercoaster of saving and losing lives—until it was time to step back and reassess his own life. A young father with a rare form of lung cancer who has been turned down for a transplant by several hospitals. A kid who was considered not “smart enough” to be worthy of a transplant. A young moth Exhale is the riveting memoir of a top transplant doctor who rode the emotional rollercoaster of saving and losing lives—until it was time to step back and reassess his own life. A young father with a rare form of lung cancer who has been turned down for a transplant by several hospitals. A kid who was considered not “smart enough” to be worthy of a transplant. A young mother dying on the waiting list in front of her two small children. A father losing his oldest daughter after a transplant goes awry. The nights waiting for donor lungs to become available, understanding that someone needed to die so that another patient could live. These are some of the stories in Exhale, a memoir about Dr. Weill’s ten years spent directing the lung transplant program at Stanford. Through these stories, he shows not only the miracle of transplantation, but also how it is a very human endeavor performed by people with strengths and weaknesses, powerful attributes, and profound flaws.  Exhale is an inside look at the world of high-stakes medicine, complete with the decisions that are confronted, the mistakes that are made, and the story of a transplant doctor’s slow recognition that he needed to step away from the front lines. This book is an exploration of holding on too tight, of losing one’s way, and of the power of another kind of decision—to leave behind everything for a fresh start.


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Exhale is the riveting memoir of a top transplant doctor who rode the emotional rollercoaster of saving and losing lives—until it was time to step back and reassess his own life. A young father with a rare form of lung cancer who has been turned down for a transplant by several hospitals. A kid who was considered not “smart enough” to be worthy of a transplant. A young moth Exhale is the riveting memoir of a top transplant doctor who rode the emotional rollercoaster of saving and losing lives—until it was time to step back and reassess his own life. A young father with a rare form of lung cancer who has been turned down for a transplant by several hospitals. A kid who was considered not “smart enough” to be worthy of a transplant. A young mother dying on the waiting list in front of her two small children. A father losing his oldest daughter after a transplant goes awry. The nights waiting for donor lungs to become available, understanding that someone needed to die so that another patient could live. These are some of the stories in Exhale, a memoir about Dr. Weill’s ten years spent directing the lung transplant program at Stanford. Through these stories, he shows not only the miracle of transplantation, but also how it is a very human endeavor performed by people with strengths and weaknesses, powerful attributes, and profound flaws.  Exhale is an inside look at the world of high-stakes medicine, complete with the decisions that are confronted, the mistakes that are made, and the story of a transplant doctor’s slow recognition that he needed to step away from the front lines. This book is an exploration of holding on too tight, of losing one’s way, and of the power of another kind of decision—to leave behind everything for a fresh start.

30 review for Exhale: Hope, Healing, and a Life in Transplant

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    I did enjoy this book, told from the inside the organ transplant field and the experiences of a leading doctor in that field. The story is moving. Mr. Weill relates how he would be so emotionally involved in seeing his terribly sick patients recover and live fulfilling lives, that when one would die he would be thrown into the depths of depression, eventually suffering from burnout and having to step back from that career for a bit of time to heal himself. It was also very good in explaining the I did enjoy this book, told from the inside the organ transplant field and the experiences of a leading doctor in that field. The story is moving. Mr. Weill relates how he would be so emotionally involved in seeing his terribly sick patients recover and live fulfilling lives, that when one would die he would be thrown into the depths of depression, eventually suffering from burnout and having to step back from that career for a bit of time to heal himself. It was also very good in explaining the transplant process, which I hadn't known much about, and also some of the medical nightmares he had unfortunately witnessed. I found the entire book interesting as well as enlightening. I won this book in a giveaway-- my thanks to the author and publisher for the opportunity to read it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jim Gleason

    Sometimes I judge a book by how long it takes to read it, and by that measure, this is one of my all-time favorites. Receiving a copy late one day, it was to be added to a growing pile of ‘to be read’ books that would get it read in about a month at best. I made the mistake of just opening it up and browsing the first few pages. While not a fast reader, I found myself drawn in like a victim sinking in quicksand, unable to put it down, finished reading its engaging 333 pages within one day. That’ Sometimes I judge a book by how long it takes to read it, and by that measure, this is one of my all-time favorites. Receiving a copy late one day, it was to be added to a growing pile of ‘to be read’ books that would get it read in about a month at best. I made the mistake of just opening it up and browsing the first few pages. While not a fast reader, I found myself drawn in like a victim sinking in quicksand, unable to put it down, finished reading its engaging 333 pages within one day. That’s how good it is, be forewarned (smile). David Weill is a lung transplant doctor (not a surgeon) dedicated to saving lives of patients desperate for their next breath of life suffering with any number of lung diseases, all of which are scary to even imagine. He goes above and beyond in his many years of practice personally connecting with these (too often near death when undergoing his care) patients and families which carries with it deep and strong emotions when facing a failure in loosing that patient. Getting so close and connected is a dangerous practice given the human toll that takes on loved ones and, in this case, a dedicated miracle worker physician. This very human story of doctor and patient is skillfully told in one patient’s journey after another, thankfully stories well balanced between successful and sorry filled outcomes. But behind all the daily patient narratives is a second even more compelling life journey, that of the physician trying to find balance in his personal career and family life compounded by a busy, stressful practice and 24-by-7 daily dedication to supporting and saving those lives. In Dr. Weill’s book the reader is invited behind the scenes, even to the point of breaking down in overwhelming tears in a hospital closet after another sad loss despite doing everything that could be done for his patient. A doctor crying? Yes, that’s how transparent he shares his life’s challenges and emotional toll, both in the thrill of victory and the sometimes death that comes with taking on often seemingly impossible patient cases. David takes each death (I don’t read them as failures) personally especially in light of his hopeful promise to each family that he will do his best to help them survive, a promise that weighs heavily in his heart every day when things go mistakenly wrong or just are beyond human ability to save in the end. Be forewarned, each patient story, the cases he takes on, often despite advice to not engage due to the stage of illness, will tug at the reader’s heart given his skill with words in capturing even the sleepless nights when he stays at a patient’s bedside, carefully watching a lung transplant surgical recovery in those all-important minutes and hours that will determine the outcome. We are drawn into those scenes, feeling the emotions of watchful hours with the family and doctor, which is what makes this such a powerful read. Those years of leading a successful national lung transplant program led to stressful family challenges, forcing hard decisions to finally leave the program. Finding himself and rededicating to his loving family, he eventually finds new meaning in life in forming a consulting practice, using those years of experience to now help other transplant programs overcome their own challenges. From his years of experience and this new perspective, he shares insightful views of the transplant world including hospital as a business, the impact of the insurance companies on daily practice, as well as the team dynamics that come in this high-pressure environment of strong personalities. I join with physicians, patients and their family/caregivers in endorsing Dr. Weill’s writing as an uplifting, hopeful, and forward-looking story, a gift for anyone engaged in the transplant experience.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Geo Is A reader

    The book ‘Exhale: Hope, Healing, and a Life in Transplant’ by David Weill caught my attention by its vivid blurb, lines about the patients who won the battle with diseases and who lost. I expected something similar to any medical (or 9-1-1) show when every chapter is a case and the doctor and his team do their best to save lives. Instead, the book is a memoir, a record of personal growth, mistakes, or victories – with few patients’ stories in-between. Understandably, the narrative's focus is the The book ‘Exhale: Hope, Healing, and a Life in Transplant’ by David Weill caught my attention by its vivid blurb, lines about the patients who won the battle with diseases and who lost. I expected something similar to any medical (or 9-1-1) show when every chapter is a case and the doctor and his team do their best to save lives. Instead, the book is a memoir, a record of personal growth, mistakes, or victories – with few patients’ stories in-between. Understandably, the narrative's focus is the doctor and his reflections on life, religion, and the evolution of lung transplantation. The reports described are heart-wrenching; one made my eyes well up with tears. Thoughts and observations are relatable and sometimes with a sprinkle of self-flagellation. I would recognize the author if I met him on the street thanks to the accurate descriptions, not the physical side of the author but mental. Yet…yet something was missing for me, something I can’t fully articulate. I know that for people who go through the hell of lung transplantation, be it as a patient or family member, the book could be a warming provider of comfort and a source of helpful information. So, the following sentences are my personal opinion as an unaware reader who voluntarily chose to dive headfirst into the topic. On the one hand, the book results from more than twenty hard-won years in the field. In some instances, the author reveals such intimate details of his life that could possibly harm his reputation. His approach to patients is overwhelmed with emotions. The cases presented in the book are the ones that made him rethink his values and priorities. They have significant meaning in pushing the story – and before that, moving the doctor’s life – forward. On the other hand, I didn’t pick up practical details about lung transplantation. Without giving away spoilers, I can say that in the book, the process of finding a donor and matching him with a recipient is vaguely described in one-two words. What are the criteria for matching or who, above the hospital level, decide where the lungs go; these facts are hanging in the air. Medical facts can be tedious, but they also matter in terms of precision. I want to end my review on the bright side. I have never come across a book by a doctor in such a specific field. Doctors must be busy writing for medical journals in a language that only other medics can comprehend. David Weill’s book kills two birds with one stone: it shows an inside look into lung transplantation for a broad audience and opens the gates to discuss physicians’ mental wellbeing. I’d recommend the book for those eager to find more about medicine and read a well-written memoir. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review out of my goodwill.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marla Nicole

    For me, this was an emotionally intense read, but simultaneously freeing and reassuring. As a nurse, I was fortunate to work with Dr Weill in lung transplant, at Stanford. I went on to work with patients who have a rare, and often deadly lung disease (pulmonary hypertension) for 10 years. “Exhale” captures common emotions that people working directly with very sick patients encounter frequently, but may never know they should pause to confront. The suffering and death of patients under the watch For me, this was an emotionally intense read, but simultaneously freeing and reassuring. As a nurse, I was fortunate to work with Dr Weill in lung transplant, at Stanford. I went on to work with patients who have a rare, and often deadly lung disease (pulmonary hypertension) for 10 years. “Exhale” captures common emotions that people working directly with very sick patients encounter frequently, but may never know they should pause to confront. The suffering and death of patients under the watch of all on the healthcare team can be unbearably heavy and consuming, with far reaching consequences on physical and psychological health, as well as critical relationships. Dr Weill articulated all of this, and more, with grace, humility, and raw emotion. Highly recommended read for those not only interested in the world of transplant, but also perspective on life, death, and relationships.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    As a double-lung transplant recipient myself, this was very intense to read-- as I believe any book dealing honestly with the process should be. It is demanding and terrifying and heartwrenching and awe-inspiring, for all involved. Dr. Weill's narration of his nearly twenty years on the front lines, and the personal toll exacted, is raw and moving. As a patient in such a life-or-death situation, one has to believe in the near-invulnerability of one's doctors; how else could you make the leap? An As a double-lung transplant recipient myself, this was very intense to read-- as I believe any book dealing honestly with the process should be. It is demanding and terrifying and heartwrenching and awe-inspiring, for all involved. Dr. Weill's narration of his nearly twenty years on the front lines, and the personal toll exacted, is raw and moving. As a patient in such a life-or-death situation, one has to believe in the near-invulnerability of one's doctors; how else could you make the leap? And yet they are human, which, to me, makes their incredible efforts to project that image to patients when they need it all the more courageous. Dr. Weill's dedication to his patients and his awe at the existence of transplant comes through strongly, even as he holds little back in his honest assessment of the limits and tragedies that batter away at even such devoted doctors (as they do the rest of the extensive medical teams also involved in these procedures, which, granted, he gives rather less attention to than I feel is justified. It is such a team effort, and the nurses, nurse practioners, physiotherapists, social workers, and specialists from other fields were as fundamental to my experience as the transplant doctors and surgeons themselves). Note that this is predominately a memoir; while Dr. Weill includes numerous (anonymized) patient stories, he is the main character. Those seeking to learn more about lung transplant may find the book lacking on that front. I am not the best judge of what might be unclear about the process, as my experiences and extensive readings of others' easily fill in the blanks, but there are few sections devoted in any depth to what is entailed in the process of being listed for transplant, the surgery itself, the immediate recovery, and life afterwards. Even with the memoir focus I feel "civilian" readers would have benefited from even a bit more detail on those fronts to scaffold the main narrative. While I recommend the book overall, I do advise some caution for those with personal involvement with lung (or potentially other organ) transplant. Lung transplant can be a positive to a near-miraculous degree, but, to be frank, it can also go awfully, and Dr. Weill is very, painfully open on that front. There are some horrible stories. A lot of them involve young cystic fibrosis patients (like myself). This book may very well be something some people need to avoid. In my opinion, if you think you might be triggered, there's a good chance you will be. If relevant to you, please keep that in mind. And take care.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Take a look at the subtitle of “Exhale: Hope, Healing, and a Life in Transplant.” There is, indeed, “Hope and Healing” in Dr. David Weill’s account of his years of serving as a Transplant Physician. The reader may learn a lot about what it takes for a health facility to be a transplant center; what it takes for people on the transplant list and their families to live with the joys and sorrows involved in organ transplantation; and what it takes to be a successful transplant team of physicians, s Take a look at the subtitle of “Exhale: Hope, Healing, and a Life in Transplant.” There is, indeed, “Hope and Healing” in Dr. David Weill’s account of his years of serving as a Transplant Physician. The reader may learn a lot about what it takes for a health facility to be a transplant center; what it takes for people on the transplant list and their families to live with the joys and sorrows involved in organ transplantation; and what it takes to be a successful transplant team of physicians, surgeons, and other medical staff. However, I think the key element in the subtitle is “a Life in Transplant.” “Exhale” is a memoir. It offers its readers insight into one man’s journey from his first immersion in transplant medicine to his movement within the profession to where he is today. Dr. Weill shares a lot of reflection on his own journey. When I began reading Part 2, I found I had to slow down my eager devouring of information. I needed to read smaller amounts, so that I could really hear some of the struggles of being the physician who leads each patient through the transplant department and who interfaces with hospital administration. There were a few times when I felt a lot of sympathy, so I had to read less at a time. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this memoir, because I truly did. I recommend this book, especially if you want to learn more about organ transplantation or you want insight into some of the challenges that medical personnel face. I read this book as an Advanced Reader’s Copy. My review is given voluntarily.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michele Benchouk

    This book was much more than an exploration of the ABCs of lung transplant. Logically, we all know that someone's loved one has to die to make a transplant possible. If you are like me, you focus on the life being saved rather than delve into the pain the donor's family must feel. However, when you are one of the technical administrators of such a program, you must see both sides. This book takes a long look at the emotional, political, and medical aspects of the transplant world. I have been a This book was much more than an exploration of the ABCs of lung transplant. Logically, we all know that someone's loved one has to die to make a transplant possible. If you are like me, you focus on the life being saved rather than delve into the pain the donor's family must feel. However, when you are one of the technical administrators of such a program, you must see both sides. This book takes a long look at the emotional, political, and medical aspects of the transplant world. I have been a long supporter of the Save-a-Life donor awareness program and believe that patients should opt OUT of being a donor rather than opt IN to this life saving opportunity. Such a change could make the process easier on many of the families, staff, and recipients in this process. This was a well-rounded look by someone intimately involved in the technical and administrative phases of transplant. Recommended reading for anyone with even a passing interesting in the transplantation or related programs and policy. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kendra

    This book was a lot better than I had honestly expected. I find a lot of books written by providers whether that be psychologists or MD's that their egos honestly make it a little challenging to get through the book. Although Dr. Weill definitely shows his ego at times, he also shows how his career humbled him. I loved reading the stories of the transplants and seeing how he was affected both as a person and a provider. Although I would have loved more stories about the transplants than the dram This book was a lot better than I had honestly expected. I find a lot of books written by providers whether that be psychologists or MD's that their egos honestly make it a little challenging to get through the book. Although Dr. Weill definitely shows his ego at times, he also shows how his career humbled him. I loved reading the stories of the transplants and seeing how he was affected both as a person and a provider. Although I would have loved more stories about the transplants than the drama within the field, I do believe that is an important aspect to cover as so many do not understand how easily the medical field can be swayed by political and bias opinions/situations. Lastly, I loved that he talked about burnout. As someone who recently received their MSN, I completed my dissertation on Moral Injury which is the newest concept for physician (and nurse) burnout which when reading Dr. Weill's book, is a category he definitely falls into. I would recommend.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tafaro

    Exhale is a refreshingly honest memoir that shares raw details about the journey of a transplant doctor and the relationships formed along the way. Dr. Weill boldly reveals details about his career, the inner workings of hospitals, and the emotions he experienced while caring for patients. As his career progressed, he found himself in the unique position of being a family member, rather than the transplant doctor, when his father found himself in need of a liver transplant. David Weill is also a g Exhale is a refreshingly honest memoir that shares raw details about the journey of a transplant doctor and the relationships formed along the way. Dr. Weill boldly reveals details about his career, the inner workings of hospitals, and the emotions he experienced while caring for patients. As his career progressed, he found himself in the unique position of being a family member, rather than the transplant doctor, when his father found himself in need of a liver transplant. David Weill is also a gifted storyteller, and his stories allow you to truly feel what both he and his patients experienced – both the highest peaks of emotion when miracles happen and the lowest valleys of losing a loved one/patient. Once you pick this book up, you won’t put it down until you turn the last page.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarthak Rastogi

    Having briefly worked in a lung transplant program, which was was short lived as the program closed down for several of the reasons mentioned in the book by the author, i could relate to some of the agonies that a pulmonary physician goes through. Apart from the relatable experiences, what I liked was the cocky behavour of the author with his colleagues and how he matured with age and the valuable lessons he learnt along the way. Empathy is not enough, the physician's duty also continues into th Having briefly worked in a lung transplant program, which was was short lived as the program closed down for several of the reasons mentioned in the book by the author, i could relate to some of the agonies that a pulmonary physician goes through. Apart from the relatable experiences, what I liked was the cocky behavour of the author with his colleagues and how he matured with age and the valuable lessons he learnt along the way. Empathy is not enough, the physician's duty also continues into the family's bereavement process. Valuable book to read for every physician thinking of ever working with a transplant program.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vnunez-Ms_luv2read

    Very good insight on the transplant process. I enjoyed the patient’s stories tremendously. The author’s presentation held your interest throughout the book. I never realized all that goes into this process. Thank you Dr. Weill for making this area your life work. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the arc of this book in return for my honest review. Receiving the book in this manner had no bearing on this review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tina Bledsoe

    I enjoyed Exhale. It told the story from the doctors perspective instead of the patients point of view. When I think of organ transplant I think patient and their families. But this book reminded me there’s a whole team of people that are involved. Dr. Weill isn’t just a doctor but he becomes their friend.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This book was great. Throughout the course of the book, you felt a multitude of emotions. It took such a difficult topic and showed the humanity behind the work. I would be happy to read any books that Dr. Weill writes in the future! I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Interesting to learn about lung transplants

  15. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    I received a copy of this book free from VRO and this is my voluntary honest review. Moving! Informative! Insightful! Emotional! Get a copy today. Read!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shay

    3.5

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Hornberger

  18. 4 out of 5

    Megan Laplante

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amer Belal

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Martinez

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Szuminsky

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann Lyons

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carly

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kausar Asra Saadat

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jody

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Holland

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