E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH


Every Deep-Drawn Breath won the 2022 Christopher Award for literature best fulfilling their 70 year-old motto that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. The patients’ bravery and true stories lit a candle in the evolution of humanistic care in medicine that shines on today. Let’s keep it burning.
Now available in a Spanish Translation.

Dr. Ely is donating all net proceeds from this book to the CIBS Center Endowment for Survivorship established to help ICU survivors and Long-COVID patients and their families to pick up the pieces of their lives.

"...deserves a wide and deep readership beyond the confines of medical science. It reads like a medical detective novel. Dr. Wes Ely asks not the proverbial question of “Who done it?” but “Who done it wrong?” His crushing answer is, “WE DID."
Emeritus Professor of Theology and Literature
Baylor University
AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million!BookshopParnassus Books Nashville

Over the next ten years, 40 to 60 million people in this country will be admitted to the ICU. Most of these hospitalizations will be sudden, unexpected, and harrowing experiences that can alter patients and their families physically and emotionally, with effects that endure for years.

Every Deep-Drawn Breath is a rich blend of science, medical history, profoundly humane patient stories, and personal reflection. Dr. Wes Ely’s mission is to prevent patients from being inadvertently harmed by the technology that is keeping them alive. Readers will experience the world of critical care through the eyes of this physician who drastically changed his clinical practice, and through cutting-edge research convinced others to do the same.

For decades, millions of ICU survivors left the hospital with disabling symptoms including newly acquired dementia, depression, PTSD, and nerve damage, all now recognized as Post Intensive Care Syndrome, or PICS (a severe subset of Long Covid symptoms). Dr. Ely’s groundbreaking investigations advanced the understanding of PICS and introduced crucial changes that reshaped intensive care: minimizing sedation, maximizing mobility, attending to the family, and providing supportive aftercare. Dr. Ely shows that this new way—technology plus touch—is the future of healthcare, and is a proven path toward reclaiming life. Full of wisdom and heart, Every Deep-Drawn Breath is an essential resource for anyone who will be affected by critical illness, which is all of us.

EDDB Book Discussion Guide
for Health-Care Teams


Dive Deeper into the Book

Meet the patients, health-care professionals, and scientists from the book

Discussion Guide for Health Care Teams


Most Americans will, in their lifetime, be a patient in an intensive care unit, which makes this a timely book, it's message an urgent one.

An intensely emotive journey through the science and history of the intensive care unit. . . . Every Deep-Drawn Breath is a paragon of humanity that will have lasting positive effects.

[A] powerful new book. . . . provides true insight into what can be accomplished with humility, perseverance, dedication and above all else, love.

A remarkable look at transformations in ICU care. . . . This humble—and humbling—look at the limits and potential of medicine will stick with readers.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review

In this dynamic, often touching debut, the author chronicles a personal, passionate return to the ethical heart of the Hippocratic oath. . . . Meaningful, thought-provoking insight into the world of critical care.

A treasure trove of hard-won wisdom. Reading Every Deep-Drawn Breath is like getting a backstage pass to the cloistered world of medical science. A gifted storyteller, Wes Ely brings his humanity to every moment, inspiring us to reexamine our own beliefs and reimagine what is possible.

Author of In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope

A stunning, heartbreaking, and hopeful book, expressing Dr. Ely’s profound union of compassion and medical skill. Given that most of us will stay in an ICU, attend a loved one there, or even die in one, I hope that many readers demand treatment according to the practices Dr. Ely has pioneered.

Author of Knocking on Heaven's Door

Dr. Ely, a thought leader in his field, reveals hard lessons he’s learned, innovations he’s led, and his compelling, bright vision for the future of medicine.

Author of Dying Well

Through rich and remarkable accounts of caring for ICU patients, in this outstanding book Dr. Wes Ely places the humanistic mission of medicine front and center, where it belongs.

Professor, Scripps Research, Author of Deep Medicine

A remarkable book from a legendary physician. Dr. Ely revolutionized critical care and now, through stories that are intimate, honest, and brave, he reveals the failings and the great promise of the field.”

Author of You Can Stop Humming Now

The ICU is an important, mysterious character in the story of modern medicine, and Every Deep-Drawn Breath is its deeply felt, thoroughly researched biography.

Author of That Good Night
E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH

About the Author

E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH, is an internist, pulmonologist, and critical care physician. Dr. Ely earned his MD at Tulane University School of Medicine, in conjunction with a Masters in Public Health. He serves as the Grant W. Liddle endowed chair in medicine and is a physician-scientist and tenured professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is also the associate director of aging research for the Tennessee Valley Veteran’s Affairs Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center (GRECC). He is the founder and codirector of the Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction, and Survivorship (CIBS) Center, an organization devoted to research and ongoing care for patients and families affected by critical illness. Dr. Ely has had numerous studies published in The New England Journal, JAMA, and The Lancet, and his writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, and numerous other publications. He lives in Nashville.


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