In the course of Seven Signs of Life, Abbey is described as a “lion” by one of her colleagues. Her honesty, determination and forthrightness are indeed lion-hearted. The lion-hearted Abbey is a woman in a traditionally male-dominated world. In such a context she gives voice to the complexity of what it means to be a human being. Such an articulation is bold, courageous and most welcome.
Her plea is that she is seen as human too, despite the tech that surrounds her art, the invasive machines, pumps, lines and drugs. The chapter headings are her alternative to the seven biological signs of life: fear, grief, joy, distraction, anger, disgust and hope — the emotions she shares with her patients and their families. The result is a powerful glimpse into the high stakes of intensive care (IC) and its harrowing ethical dilemmas. All medical specialists work with death, but few perhaps have to negotiate it daily.
In this book, which grew out of her Secret Doctor blog on the British Medical Association’s website, Dr Abbey offers a wonderfully frank assessment of the emotions shared — and unshared — between doctors and their patients... Dr Abbey writes movingly on the overwhelming joy doctors feel at a patient’s recovery. The delight as eyes open, tubes are removed and grey skin flushes pink. But, because she works in intensive care, a lot of her patients don’t pull through... Though it can be distressing, she searches for the unique human core of each struggling body.