A Surgeon and a Maverick - The Life and Pioneering Work of Magdi Yacoub, an authorised biography by Simon Pearson and Fiona Gorman (published by The American University in Cairo Press) is a wonderful book that has pride of place alongside my Desert Island Discs titles. The Bible, of course is a “gimme” as is the Complete Works of Shakespeare. These accompany A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; The Path of Peace by Sir Anthony Seldon; The Street-Wise Patient’s Guide to Surviving Cancer by Karol Sikora; Letters From School by John Rae; General Mathematics by Channon and McLeish-Smith (my outstanding Maths teacher at school in Rugby); The Poems of John Betjeman and Ian Allan’s Guide To British Rail’s Locomotives.

All of these books have a great emotional meaning for me and none more so than Sir Magdi’s biography after my open heart surgery in Harefield Hospital only a few weeks ago.

I attended the pioneering heart surgeon’s book signing at Harefield recently in the company of my wife and Professor Karol Sikora, the world’s leading cancer specialist. Karol had the same procedure as myself at 7.30 am on Friday 13th (unlucky for some but not for us) October 2023. Standing in the queue to have my books signed by the great man was an emotional experience and sums up the outstanding nature of the book and this man’s life. In front of me were a couple with their 40-year-old daughter. As they sat down with Sir Magdi, the tears flowed-as they did for everyone in the queue as each person approached the table. They had not met since their daughter’s life was saved by Sir Magdi when she was just a few weeks old.

The lady behind me was very quiet and subdued and was obviously suffering great emotional pain. As we both approached the table, I plucked up the courage to ask her what was her connection with Sir Magdi. I will say no more other than that her incredibly poignant story is revealed in Chapter 16. It says more about the book and his life than any review by me - or anyone else for that matter - could do.

It is far too obvious to say that I recommend this work to you. It is a story of genius, people, resilience, skill, prejudice and, above all, hope. When I visit homes, schools and universities around the world, I will ask if there is a copy available. I have mine, of course, but everyone else should have access to one as well. A percentage of the proceeds go towards the Aswan Health Centre which Sir Magdi established to address the health care needs in Southern Egypt.

Copies of the book have been donated to Harefield Hospital to help raise funds for the Harefield Haemodialysis appeal. A signed copy was also auctioned by Lord Jeffrey Archer at the Chain of Hope Gala Dinner in aid of sick children across Africa.

Which gives me an idea. I will have my own precious signed copy by Sir Magdi also signed by Professor Karol Sikora. It will be the only copy signed by the two most eminent physicians in the world and it is now up for auction to our schools with the bidding starting at £…you tell me!

Send your bids to me at [email protected]. We will keep everyone up to date with the current total via the SATIPS website and announce the winning school in a blaze of glory in the Summer 2024 edition of Prep School Magazine, hopefully photographed with both great men at Harefield Hospital. Whilst I get on with making sure this all happens now that I have promised it, may I encourage you to visit Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity's website, particularly if your school is looking for a very worthy charity to support. 

May I (I was going to say wholeheartedly because that is how I am-now!) encourage you, your family, friends and communities to read this very special book. You might well be the grateful beneficiary of Sir Magdi’s work (and almost certainly that of Professor Karol Sikora- whose books and charities I also recommend to you) in the future.

If you would like to bid to win a copy of A Surgeon and a Maverick signed by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub and Professor Karol Sikora then please email [email protected] The funds raised from this auction will go towards advancing care for heart and lung patients.

Paul Jackson

Editor-Prep School Magazine