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Histories

by Sam Guglani

I found this a moving, insightful account of the emotional merry-go-round that is a hospital. Not at all like a romantic hospital-series but authentic voices describing a hectic week in a modern facility. A doctor treating his former school bully, the mistreated cleaner, an Indian student with a dying father: they all have a story to tell. The language fits each character, not really surprising because the author himself is a doctor and poet.

Extract

And now, two years a consultant, she feels no better at it at all. If anything she's less steady, more easily knocked about. It's as though all her other patients, all their shouldered but invisible histories, weigh upon and unbalance her, toppling successive encounters so that the day unravels sometimes like a trail of falling dominoes.
Look, Mr Chamberlain's saying, we're no wiser here, your recommendations and so on. He taps his pencil at the pad, ticks off points as they come up. He's a big man, his knees and legs pushed firmly out into the room. His wife, Emily's patient, just sits and stares, all the while sipping her tea, the clink of cup and saucer loud in this tiny space.
When had patients started bringing in tea? She remembers as a student how consultants would be brought coffee and biscuits, sometimes even in the middle of a consultation. No one, least of all the patients, would blink an eye back then.
Unthinkable now, of course. But instead here are the Chamberlains, wielding their cups and pencils and angry eyes.

Parallels

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sachs
  • Inside Birmingham Children's Hospital - TV documentary
  • As I Live and Breathe, Notes From a Patient-doctor by Jamie Weisman
     

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