In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope
By: Rana Awdish
Published: October 24th, 2017
From the Cover:
Dr. Rana Awdish never imagined that an emergency trip to the hospital would result in hemorrhaging nearly all of her blood volume and losing her unborn first child. But after her first visit, Dr. Awdish spent months fighting for her life, enduring consecutive major surgeries and experiencing multiple overlapping organ failures. At each step of the recovery process, Awdish was faced with something even more unexpected: repeated cavalier behavior from her fellow physicians—indifference following human loss, disregard for anguish and suffering, and an exacting emotional distance.
Hauntingly perceptive and beautifully written, In Shock allows the reader to transform alongside Awidsh and watch what she discovers in our carefully-cultivated, yet often misguided, standard of care. Awdish comes to understand the fatal flaws in her profession and in her own past actions as a physician while achieving, through unflinching presence, a crystalline vision of a new and better possibility for us all.
As Dr. Awdish finds herself up against the same self-protective partitions she was trained to construct as a medical student and physician, she artfully illuminates the dysfunction of disconnection. Shatteringly personal, and yet wholly universal, she offers a brave road map for anyone navigating illness while presenting physicians with a new paradigm and rationale for embracing the emotional bond between doctor and patient.
Those who know me best know my passion for medicine. I have been applying to medical schools over the past year and I always enjoy a good medical book. Last year I read The Language of Kindness and this year I came upon Dr. Awdish’s book. This book has been enlightening; it describes an account from a physician of what it feels like to be a seriously ill patient. I feel this is a perspective that is rare in the medical field but incredibly valuable.
Dr. Awdish encounters unimaginable tragedy when she loses her first pregnancy and suffers life-threatening complications in the process. She describes in great detail the encounters she has with various medical providers during her health crisis. Some of these are quite shocking: a medical student doing an OB ultrasound while she is being triaged upon arriving to the hospital and asking her to show him where it shows that her unborn child has died; hearing the surgeons say “She’s trying to die on us. . . . She’s circling the drain. . . . We’re losing her” as she is readied for emergency surgery in the OR; a couple days later a nurse coming to tell her that her child has died and she’s wrong for not wanting to see and say goodbye to the baby’s physical body; a physician telling her that the night she first came into the hospital was “A really bad night for [him]”; and other providers dismissing her pain and symptoms before she finally reached a diagnosis.
In Shock is Dr. Awdish’s plea for empathy and improved communication among health care providers. In a field where providers are taught to distance themselves emotionally from patients in order to prevent burnout. However, Dr. Awdish argues that this distance is a barrier to providing empathetic care–the kind that acknowledges we are all human and should be treated as such. I think Dr. Awdish says it best when she writes,
“It is entirely possible to feel someone’s pain, acknowledge their suffering, hold it in our hands and support them with our presence without depleting ourselves, without clouding our judgment. But only if we are honest about our own feelings.”
This is a book I will carry with me in my medical career and I feel it is a valuable account that all should read. There may come a time when we find ourselves in a “patient” role, and understanding not only the obstacles medical providers face in giving empathetic care but also the ways in which patients can better advocate for themselves could make a world of difference.