“If empathy is the ability to take the perspective of another and feel with them, then, at its best, the practice of medicine is a focused, scientific form of empathy.”
For the past few days I’ve been devouring In Shock in every spare moment I could find. In her narrative, Awdish recounts the experience of severe illness and near-death on the background of being a physician herself. She shares almost “crossing over”-esque insights into how and why medicine is failing its patients, as well as its doctors.
In Shock is definitively part-memoir, succinctly conveying the many complexities of Awdish’s illness and survival. True to its intention, it avoids the traditional stiff-upper-lip clinical retelling, and allows for range of emotions experienced by the critically ill individual. It is a narrative not looking purely outwards, but also in. What Awdish distills from her experience is both poignant and pragmatic.
“Illness is viewed as an aberrant state. It is a town we drive through on a journey home, but not a place to stop and linger.”
In Shock is about medicine’s broken telephone. It is about our inherent, but often unintentional, disrespect for patients and ourselves. It is about seeking comfort in the wrong ways, and about righting our bad medical habits.
“We listen imperfectly, through a fog of ghosts and competing priorities.”
Perhaps an unexpected benefit for me, in reading this, has been clarity. I understand now the dissonance between myself and much of medicine – I think my generation of doctors exists in that grey area between the “old-school” and the “new school”. We’re trying to remain respectful of the giants that brought us here, but have also become acutely aware that the way things “have always been” is not the way things should continue.
While I think that anyone can enjoy this book, I highly recommend it to medical students and doctors. I’m definitely adding this to my growing list of books medical students should read, right up there with Postmortem and When Breath Becomes Air. (If you do read it, I would love to discuss it with you.)
Right now, I am absolutely fangirling over Dr Awdish, and I wish to see more physicians like her speaking up. Far from being punitive, In Shock invokes the hope that medicine can be healed – and so, too, can we.
“In that light we can accept that our greatest gift is not in fact healing, because all healing is transient.”
… I’ll leave you to read it yourself to discover what our true greatest gift is.