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A Heavy Reckoning

What happens when you reach the threshold of life and death - and come back? As long as humans have lived together on the planet, there have been wars, and injured soldiers and civilians. But today, as we engage in wars across the globe with increasingly sophisticated technology, we are able to bring people back from ever closer encounters with death. But how do we do it, and what happens next? Here, historian Emily Mayhew explores the modern reality of medicine and injury in wartime, from the trenches of World War One to the dusty plains of Afghanistan and the rehabilitation wards of Headley Court in Surrey. Mixing vivid and compelling stories of unexpected survival and giving astonishing insights into the frontline of medicine, A Heavy Reckoning is a book about how far we have come in saving, healing and restoring the human body. But what are the costs involved in this hardest of journeys back from the brink? From the plastic surgeon battling to restore function to a blasted hand to the double amputee learning to walk again on prosthetic legs, Mayhew gives us a new understanding of the limits of human life and the extraordinary costs paid both physically and mentally by casualties all over the world in the twenty-first century. Published in conjunction with the Wellcome Collection.
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No-holds-barred, powerful medical non-fiction from the bleeding edge of medicine and war

About the Author

Dr Emily Mayhew is a military medical historian specialising in the study of severe casualty, its infliction, treatment and long-term outcomes in 20th and 21st century warfare. She is historian in residence in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College, and a Research Fellow in the Division of Surgery within the Department of Surgery and Cancer. She is the author of Wounded: From Battlefield to Blight 1914-1918, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize 2014.


A great book, compelling and hard hitting. A Heavy Reckoning is a crucial milestone in remembering the most important lesson learnt from recent conflict in Afghanistan -- Harry Parker, author of Anatomy of a Soldier Moving, thought provoking and informative, it is not one to be missed. * Soldier Magazine * An extraordinary human story of resilience ... an outstanding study of a lamentably underreported aspect of modern warfare. * Sunday Times * An outstanding study of medicine on the front line in Afghanistan and beyond. * The Sunday Times * A riveting description of the journey from the battlefield through every stage of resuscitation to recovery back home. * Spectator * In her book, Emily Mayhew, a medical military historian who studies the history of severe casualty in warfare, describes all of this carnage in the most extraordinary, close-up detail and by the end you appreciate her for doing it - after all, why on earth would she spare us? -- Mark Smith * Scotland Herald * Mayhew's book is a valuable contribution to the history of military medicine -- Pete Starling * British Society for the History of Medicine * Mayhew is uniquely placed to tell this story, which flits between medical science and heart-thumping narrative. -- Miles Amoore * Literary Review * Disturbing and moving in equal measure, it raises some profound questions about the trade-off between survival and lasting wellbeing and the limits of modern medicine. A highly recommended, if sobering read. -- Becky Clark * Soldier Magazine * Superbly details the effect of the war on British soldiers. * TLS *

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