Critical: – Science and stories from the brink of human life
About the book
Being critically ill means one or more of your vital organs have failed – this could be your lungs, your heart, your kidneys, gut or even your brain. Starting with the first recognised case in which a little girl was saved by intensive care in 1952 in Copenhagen, Matt writes brilliantly about the fascinating history, practices and technology in this newest of all the major medical specialties. Matt guides us around the ICU by guiding us around the body and the different organs, and in this way, we learn not only the stories of many of the patients he’s treated over the years, but also about the various functions different parts of the body.
He draws on his time spent with real patients, on the brink of death, and explains how he and his colleagues fight against the odds to help them live. Happily many of his cases have happy endings, but Matt also writes movingly about those cases which will always remain with him – the cases where the mysteries of the body proved too hard to solve, or diagnoses came too late or made no difference to the outcome.
What I thought
As someone who loves all things medical, seeing this book on Netgalley was a gift. Oooh that looks good I thought and was excited when my request for an ARC was granted.
Even so, as it moved up my to-be-read list, I did keep eyeing it with some trepidation, hoping it wouldn’t be too dry or too technical. I imagined the author to be a man in his late 50’s to early 60’s and perhaps an old school type consultant.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a fascinating book and Dr Matt Morgan couldn’t be further away from the stereotype I imagined. He has written the book in such a compelling way that it honestly does become quite difficult to put the book down, at least until you reach the end of a section. One reviewer mentioned that at times the author tends to meander through stories. I know what he means but that isn’t a negative point, for me this is what keeps the book so interesting. It really is like listening to someone chatting to you about their job which also happens to be their passion.
Through the book you find out about the various vital organs of the body and what goes wrong. We start out by being introduced to the immune system, then there’s the heart, the lungs, blood, the brain and at the end – the soul. No that’s not an organ but nevertheless, the soul needs looking after too.
In each section there is a past case that will help to explain what has gone wrong and what the whole critical care team do to try to put right what has gone wrong. The critical care consultant is a team leader but it takes a whole team made up of many different specialities to bring forth a solution and Dr Morgan is always at pains to emphasise this point. As he tells you what has happened to the patient and explains some of the challenges in treating them, he will go back and take you through some of the history of how treatments and procedures have been discovered and how they’ve progressed to where we are now. The history alone is really interesting. Roald Dahl features in some of it and has made his own contribution to medical science.
Throughout the book the stories of the patients are always told with great compassion. Ethical considerations are often discussed when describing how decisions were made in treatments and procedures. All in all its a very rounded look at how critical care works and the part it plays within medicine and surgery.
An absolutely brilliant book which I’d not hesitate to recommend. Read this, and if you ever find yourself or a loved one in the dire situation of needing critical care, you’ll be confident in the knowledge that they will do everything within their power to bring about the best possible outcome.
Apparently there will be another book to follow, I’m counting down the weeks to reading it.
With thanks to Simon and Schuster UK via Netgalley for this advanced reader copy.
The book is out on Kindle and in hardback on 30th May 2019 and is available now to pre-order on Amazon