Breath Taking: The Power, Fragility, and Future of Our Extraordinary Lungs
From an expert in pulmonary medicine, the story of our extraordinary lungs, the organ that both explains our origins and holds the keys to our future as a species
We take an average of 7.5 million breaths a year and some 600 million in our lifetime, and what goes on in our body each time oxygen is taken in and carbon dioxide expelled is nothing short of miraculous. "Our lungs are the lynchpin between our bodies and the outside world," writes Dr. Michael Stephen. And yet, we take our lungs for granted until we're incapacitated and suddenly confronted with their vital importance.
In Breath Taking, pulmonologist Michael Stephen takes us on a journey to shed original and much-needed light on our neglected and extraordinary lungs, at a most critical societal moment. He relates the history of oxygen on Earth and the evolutionary origins of breathing, and explores the healing power of breath and its spiritual potential. He explains in lay terms the links our lungs have with our immune system and with society at large. And he offers illuminating chronicles of pulmonary research and discovery--from Galen in the ancient world to pioneers of lung transplant--and poignant human stories of resilience and recovery--from the frantic attempts to engage his own son's lungs at birth to patients he treats for cystic fibrosis today.
Despite great advances in science, our lungs are ever more threatened. Asthma is more prevalent than ever; rising stress levels make our lungs vulnerable to disease; and COVID-19 has revealed that vulnerability in historic ways. In this time, Breath Taking offers inspiration and hope to millions whose lungs are affected and vital perspective to us all.
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About the Author
Dr. Michael J. Stephen is an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center. He is a leader of numerous clinical trials and was on the front line caring for COVID-19 patients. Over the past two decades, he has studied advanced end-stage lung diseases and worked with patients at diverse locales, including a Massachusetts prison hospital and a pediatric HIV clinic in Cape Town, South Africa. A graduate of Brown University and Boston University Medical School, he lives in New Jersey.