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Kate Bull's 'Open Hearts'

If you haven't got your copy of Kate Bull's 'Open Hearts' book yet you're in luck as we have some available.

Full price hardback copies are priced at £16.99 but buy through us and we can offer you a 10% discount.

To order your copy for only £15.29 inc P&P* contact us on 01473 252007 or email

If you would like to receive your copy but donate your 10% discount to The Somerville Foundation you can choose to pay £16.99. Just let us know when you call or email. 

Kate Bull has kindly written us a few words to introduce the book:

How ‘Open Hearts’ came to be written

I am not asking you to feel sorry for paediatric cardiologists, but a teenager’s last clinic visit is a little bittersweet.  Having often known them since they were born, abruptly - in the 15 minutes allotted to their slot - you have basically to say: “goodbye, have a nice life, etc.” You package up their medical history and send them off to another hospital, to colleagues who meet them first as nearly-adults and aim to treat them for the rest of their lives. After that, we hear nothing more. News does come back from the adult hospitals - but only as statistics: x% of Fallot’s Tetralogy patients have had a pulmonary valve replacement, y% of Mustard survivors need an ablation… we hear nothing personal – no news of births, marriages or deaths; the climbing of mountains or passing of exams. It is a little bit sad!

I became interested in the outside-hospital lives of ‘patients’ when my own son was ill.  Those years made me realise the obvious – that ‘patients’ aren’t really ‘patients’ most of the time; they are just kids, teenagers or adults trying to get on with their lives.  So when my retirement was looming, I decided to make an effort to meet some ‘graduates’ of paediatric cardiac services and hear more about their personal lives.  One thing led to another and now there is a book! 

I wanted the doctor-patient relationship well out of the way, so needed to make new connections.  Here I must thank the Somerville Foundation. Some of you reading previous issues of this newsletter may have spotted a few lines from me requesting that you make contact.  You were among the more than 100 who I eventually ‘met’ either in person, on Skype, through letters or emails or over the phone.  With the Internet (Facebook in particular) and other kinds of modern ‘gossip’, somehow the word got out to the rest of the world and my interviewees include people from the US, Australia and New Zealand.  To be able to spend a couple of hours with people without the pressure of others waiting outside the clinic door was a bonus for me personally and I think most people enjoyed our back and forth conversations. 

The ‘British’ memory that went furthest back was of being a 6 year old with endocarditis spending months on a men’s ward in 1947 having 4-times daily injections of a new and still scarce drug called penicillin - that predated the inception of the National Health Service! Also in 1947, an American woman told me of her Blalock shunt in Oklahoma; the surgeons opened her chest one day and went back in to actually achieve the anastomosis several days later…. 

Stories like these gave me a chance to introduce some of the fascinating history of the subject and explain how diagnosis and surgery have evolved since Blalock’s very first shunt in late 1944.  It includes the inception of Adult Congenital Heart Disease services, which Jane Somerville dates to 1980.  The book is dedicated to her.  

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