If I Get to Five

What Children Can Teach Us About Courage and Character

Fred Epstein, M.D., and Joshua Horwitz

Henry Holt and Co.

A world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon shares the lessons of courage, compassion, and resilience that he's learned from his exceptional young patients

If I Get to Five is a one-of-a-kind book by a one-of-a-kind human being. The medical world knows him as Fred Epstein, M.D., the neurosurgeon who pioneered life-saving procedures for previously inoperable tumors in children. His patients and their families know him simply as Dr. Fred, the "miracle man" who has extended them both a healing hand and an open heart.

"I simply can't accept the idea of kids dying," is how Epstein explains his commitment to saving patients. As a child, he had to overcome severe learning disabilities to realize his dream of becoming a doctor. Later, as the world's leading pediatric neurosurgeon, he did whatever it took to rescue children that other doctors had given up on.

Epstein credits his young patients as his most important teachers. "We tend to think of children as fragile, little people," he writes. "To me, they're giants." If I Get to Five relates the unforgettable experiences he's shared with children-lessons in courage, compassion, love, and hope-that we can all draw on to overcome adversity at any stage of life. In If I Get to Five, Epstein meditates on these lessons at a time when they parallel his own experiences, as he recovers from a near-fatal head injury.

If I Get to Five is a riveting profile of courage and compassion. No one who reads this remarkable book will ever look at children-or adversity-in the same way.


Read an Excerpt

From If I Get to Five:

The title of this book was inspired by one of my young patients. Naomi was only four years old when she arrived at the hospital. I had few surgical options, but I knew I had to do something quickly or she would certainly die.

Naomi was a feisty kid with dancing eyes and a willfulness I've rarely seen in adults. During my first conversation with her, she announced defiantly: "If I get to five, I'm going to learn to ride a two-wheeler!" When I saw her each day on rounds, she'd update me on her plans. "If I get to five, I'm going to beat my older brother at t


Praise for If I Get to Five

Dear Dr. Epstein,

I admire and laud your "vision." Your concept of going beyond the scientific and technical boundaries in treating patients in your hospital is most encouraging.

With prayers and good wishes,
The Dalai Lama

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Fred Epstein, M.D., and Joshua Horwitz

  • Fred Epstein, M.D., is the founding director of the Institute for
    Neurology and Neurosurgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. He has served as president of the International
    Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery and president of the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Epstein lives with his wife and children in Greenwich, Connecticut.

    Joshua Horwitz is the president of Living Planet Books, a book packaging firm that specializes in health, psychology, and spirituality titles. He is the co-author of Wrestling with Angels and lives in Washington, D.C.


Available Formats and Book Details

If I Get to Five

What Children Can Teach Us About Courage and Character

Fred Epstein, M.D., and Joshua Horwitz

Christopher Awards - Nominee, Christopher Awards - Winner