We know doctors have the power to change ordinary lives, in the most extraordinary of ways. But who are the people who change their doctor’s lives, and how do they do it?
In That One Patient, journalist Ellen de Visser asks doctors and nurses around the world to tell the story of that one patient they could never forget.
There’s the little boy whose recovery from maleria gave a whole team of doctors hope to continue working in a refugee camp. There’s the Ebola survivor whose guilt over living stays with his immunologist. There’s the untouchable surgeon whose confrontation with a neurology patient years later caused him to question the role of medical intervention. Or the woman who used to manage an intensive care until, infected with COVID-19 and reliant on a colleague to send messages to her family.
These patients have reshaped the practice, the humanity and the lives of their doctors and nurses. That One Patient is an intimate collection and a timely reminder of our capacity for bravery, strength and humour.
A collection of memories, never more than 3 pages in length from a range of medical professionals recalling that one patient they will never forget. Each and every contribution was interesting, some unsurprisingly sad and moving, others with an emphasis on the learning, the impact on their practice, what they now do differently because of that one patient.
Very readable and varied in content, there were some parallels with When Breath Becomes Air which I read recently, review here in terms of the need to put the patient in the centre, a humanising response not purely a medical one and it seems practitioners learn this through their experiences mostly with their patients, but there were accounts of being the patient or treating a neighbour and the impact of this.
The book concluded with some sections on the Covid 19 pandemic, its arrival, the shock and fear that came with it and of course the needs of other highly vulnerable patients who would be so high risk if they came into contact with the virus, their need for protection in the hospital setting.
Most accounts were personal and reflective, some were brave and honest enough to talk about mistakes they had made, the things that had gone wrong, both medically but also interpersonally, errors of judgement and communication, assumptions about disabilities presuming to know best.
I read this between other books, dipping in and reading a few insights. It seems timely with the spotlight and the pressure that currently is on health services and it reads as a celebration of this work, a recognition of the challenges, the pressures and the human side; the people treating and receiving treatment and the importance of this.
I would definitely recommend this, it is insightful and moving, with each account so brief as to offer a snapshot of the work but one of those most important snapshots – the one of that one patient.
Thank you to 4th Estate Books for the gifted copy of this book.
About the Author
Ellen De Vissar is a science journalist at Holland’s most popular newspaper, de Volkskrant. In 2017 she began her series, ‘That One Patient‘. Since its inception, it has moved countless readers, whether they have a medical background or not.