An unflinching report from the front lines of critical care medicine, a technology-driven field in which doctors routinely save patients’ lives—sometimes at great cost to their physical and mental health.
Incredible advances in medical technologies and treatments have created a new class of patient: those who survived a significant illness because of an emergency intervention. Such interventions may include surgery to help your lungs breathe, your heart pump blood, or your kidneys process waste. Often, a machine keeps you alive. Only a minority of patients who undergo such procedures make it home, and even fewer return to lives that resembled those they lived before they spent time in the hospital. Yet critical care gives patients and their families hope, and many people choose without hesitation to undergo any procedure that may extend their lives. Lamas, a critical care doctor and faculty member at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, moves beyond the hospital to tell the stories of these survivors. Through beautiful storytelling, she traces the lives of patients after the initial relief of being alive is shadowed by the new reality of recovery and self-care. One mother waited years to receive a lung transplant and would have died waiting were it not for a machine that could oxygenate blood outside of her body, bypassing her lungs and heart. Then there is the popular neighborhood father who would do anything for a new kidney and a grandfather who plugs into the wall every night to keep his heart pumping blood so he can get to know his grandson. Without exception, each of the people the author met is exceptionally motivated to make the most of his or her second chance. Their stories are heart-rending and inspiring, and it is evident that Lamas is deeply moved by the consequences of the actions she and other doctors take every day.
An enthralling reminder that behind every medical advance are the people whose lives it affects and that their stories have impact.