Lockdown reading - the medical edition

16 May 2020

I've always been an avid reader but since having Fred I convinced myself that I didn't have time for it when the reality was that once I'd completed the morning nursery run, a day at work, the walk home from nursery, the tea, the bath, the bed and the housework all I could muster the energy to do was sit and watch Youtube and get wrapped up in the dramas of batshit people on the internet. It wasn't healthy and it wasn't actually much fun either. After watching Brain on Fire on Netflix and realising that it was based on a book, I had to download it and within 24 hours I'd devoured it and was thirsty for more.

At around the same time, the Amazon wishlist trend was bopping around twitter faster than the rona and before I knew it, I had a to be read pile longer than my shopping list and all I wanted to do was read. The re-lighting of my reading fire (that's a dodgy metaphor, I'm not burning books) has been one of the best things to happen to me in lockdown. Back at the beginning of the year I set myself the target of reading just one book a month throughout the year, we're in May and I'm on book number thirteen with an ever growing to be read pile. With my new found addiction for books only growing I am absolutely considering subscribing to the Amazon-book-prime thing because I'm not sure that I can continue to fund my habit this way. Before a little internet person pipes up about my bragging about the amount of books I read, I'm proud of the fact that I've completed a new years resolution before we're even half way through the year and not implying that my unnatural reading speed makes me "better" than anyone else, so sit down hun. 

Back to the books - Brain on Fire had me hooked, having my own little broken brain makes me intrigued about other's broken brain stories and Susannah Callahan, was in her early 20's when he brain decided to completely lose it and send her on this incredible journey of recovery. She suffers with a very rare auto-immune disease that presents itself in so many different ways that it's often misdiagnosed and can be deadly. Susannah's journey is inspirational, she went from being entirely lost inside herself to becoming an author - it's well worth a read and the Netflix film is very close to the book which is always a winner. 

There was a running theme of medical related books for a long time, again, being unwell last year has made me obsessed with hospital and trauma - much like when I was preggo and religiously watched one born every minute until I did it myself, I can't resist a good old medical memoir. The next book I read was Can you hear me? - A paramedic's memoir of working for the London Ambulance Service, Jake Jones recounts some of his most traumatic calls, his less traumatic ones and the hilarious ones, it's well worth a read if you're wanting to know more of the ambulance service and ALL the paperwork. A similar book I also read was Blood Sweat and Tea by Tom Reynolds, this book is a series of blog posts from Tom's blog (entitled the same), Tom gives hilarious accounts of his working life as well as critiques the shortfalls of the service and the daily struggles employees of the trust face. 

Continuing with the medical theme, I also read In Stitches by Dr Nick Edwards that did in fact have me in stitches (the metaphorical kind, just to clarify) as I said on my Instagram, the places that people put fruit are mind-blowing. In addition to this, I highly recommend Twas the nightshift before Christmas by Adam Kay as well as his first book, This is going to Hurt, both books had me crying and laughing at the same time and are probably the best starter-reads if you're wanting to get into medical book drama. The amount of pressure that NHS staff are put under is unbelievable and especially at a time like this, it's so important to have an insight into what life is truly like for these professionals or shall we say, heroes. 

The Doctor will see you now by Max Pemberton followed more of a plot surrounding Max's life with housemates (also working for the NHS bar one) and the struggles they faced daily at work. Again, an insight into the beurocracy of the trust as well as the more interesting and eccentric patients that were treated is so interesting. It was also nice to follow more of a narrative for a while as I'd probably overdone it slightly with the straight up memoirs. 

Getting back to preggo life, The Secret Midwife was a brilliant read. If you follow Erin you'll know that she's a student midwife and one of my favourite people, as I recall Erin was about 2 minutes (slight exaggeration) into her training and she was already catching babies all over the place, this book reflects how student midwives are quite literally chucked into the deep end and faced with the responsibility of life and sadly death. I'll never get my head around how midwives can be so comforting and reassuring and never look stressed also again, the paperwork, so much, all the time. If you're looking for an honest account of the life of a midwife then this is a must read.

I've never been to intensive care and I don't really fancy it to be honest but I was interested into finding out what it was like to work there so Seven signs of life called to me (another metaphor, I'm not hearing books speak) Aoife Abbey recounts her experience of working as a Dr in intensive care and it is deep, she candidly discusses the last moments of patient's lives and what "making them comfortable" actually means. Aoife focusses strongly on the seven key emotions we feel over our lifetime and how she relates to them in a work based perspective to herself, her patients and their families. At first this emotional account didn't speak to me but in retrospect, it's fascinating how Aoife can connect her experiences to specific emotions to cope with the often tragic circumstances that she has to manage at work.

Things took a slightly darker turn with Unnatural Causes, Dr Richard Shepherd recounts his entire career as a forensic pathologist, sharing his experience of the Hungerford Massacre, 7/7 bombings and various murders etc. he also very candidly and honestly speaks of the PTSD affects his work has had on his mental health and that of his family relationships. Unnatural causes gave a fantastic insight into forensic pathology and how autopsies are undertaken and the absolute grilling pathologists can get in caught that I was previously unaware of. 

The Brain by David Eagleman is very different to the books mentioned above - it covers how the brain develops and how life develops the brain in a really simple and very easy to understand language that doesn't blow your mind (see what I did there) I really enjoyed learning more about the brain without feeling like an idiot and not understanding half it. It's written in a really easy format that makes it, unlike most non-fiction reads, easy to follow without wanting to put it down and have a break. 

There you have it, a whistle stop tour of some of the best medical related books I've read over the past four weeks, is there even a name for this genre because I'm not keen on "medical related". I'll be posting about some of fiction books I've clapped my eyes on soon so keep an eye out for that if dead bodies, medical emergencies and giving birth isn't your jam but twisted thrillers are.


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