It’s another day of Blogmas and today I’m bringing you two mini reviews – Adam Kay’s original bestseller This Is Going To Hurt and its Christmas themed follow-up Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas
Adam Kay was a junior doctor from 2004 until 2010, before a devastating experience on a ward caused him to reconsider his future. He kept a diary throughout his training, and This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS with reflections on the current crisis. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.
A little earlier on this year I was sitting with a couple of Audible credits to use up and this popped up on my ‘You may like’ list. I’d been meaning to pick up a physical copy for a while so I figured why not, I knew a couple of people who had read it and raved about it. I got more than I could ever have expected.
I’m going to say straight up that as funny as this book is in places, there’s a lot of talk of things getting stuck where you really wouldn’t want them stuck, at points it is also incredibly sad. Adam’s speciality was Obs and Gynae and there are some discussions around infertility and traumatic deliveries so if that is potentially triggering for you please take care if you chose to pick up this book.
During his time as a junior doctor Adam kept diaries, reflecting on his shifts across the years. This book is a collection of these diary entries from the very first time he stepped onto a ward after graduating with his medical degree to the moment years later when he’s made it to Senior Registrar and realises he cannot do it any more.
I really enjoyed hearing about Adam’s early years as a doctor, the various rotations in his House Officer years before he began to specialise. He paints such a clear picture of life as a junior doctor, from the crazy hours and not knowing exactly where you’re going to be in six months time, to the shock of realising that overnight you are responsible for whole areas of the hospital, whether you have any real experience in that medical area or not.
A lot of the anecdotes are full of humour. As I mentioned there are a lot of things getting stuck where you wouldn’t want them getting stuck! One particularly memorable anecdote involved antics with a desk fan that will leave everyone (but especially males) wincing. For me though some of the strongest points of the book are where Adam rails against some of the injustices in the system, for example the postcode lottery that means you might not even be eligible for one round of IVF whereas your friend round the corner falls under the care of a different health trust and is entitled to three.
Adam’s recollection of the reasons he finally left medicine really got to me though. It’s an incredibly sad tale that caught me slightly by surprise as I sat on the train waiting to leave Edinburgh on my commute home. Without doubt this part of the book will stick with you for some time.
The audiobook is narrated by Adam himself, and he does a fantastic job, particularly in the latter stages where he discusses the ways the system is failing junior doctors and what needs to be done. You can easily tell how passionate he is about the NHS. The Audible download also comes with a bonus feature, Adam in discussion with Mark Watson which was interesting to listen to. The only thing that didn’t work quite so well for me in the audiobook was the footnotes. They were useful and explained some of the medical terms used, however where in a physical book they are naturally indicated at a certain point you have the option to read it when you want. In the audiobook they are read just after the term is mentioned, and I can’t help but feel a couple of stories lost a little of their impact with a footnote read in the middle of it.
Buy it from – Amazon UK // Amazon US // Waterstones // Book Depository
Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is the hilarious, poignant and entertaining story of the life of a junior doctor at the most challenging time of the year. With twenty-five tales of intriguing, shocking and incredible Christmas incidents, the British public will finally appreciate the sacrifices made and the challenges faced by the unsung heroes of the NHS.
Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas will be fully illustrated (as tastefully as possible) and will delight all of Adam’s fans throughout the festive period of Christmas 2019 and for many years to come.
Back with a second book this includes some particularly festive anecdotes as well as a few ‘outtakes’ from the first book, anecdotes which had been considered too much for the first book. I think one of the strengths of this book is really highlighting how many of the big family days our healthcare workers give up to ensure that the health service still functions at Christmas, with Adam working each Christmas Day several years in a row.
Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is a lot shorter than Adam’s first book. This isn’t a criticism, it’s natural given the limited source material available, and will be obvious to you if you’re in store picking up a physical copy but if you’re purchasing an eBook or the audio version is something to consider. The Audible version of This Is Going To Hurt is nearly 6 and a half hours long, this in comparison is only 2 and a half hours, worth bearing in mind particularly if you’re paying for the Audible version rather than using a credit.
Buy it from – Amazon UK // Amazon US // Waterstones // Book Depository
Before I end this post I’m going to write my own little love letter to the NHS. Many years ago (more than I care to admit) a little seven year old girl was starting to get excited for Christmas when her mum got a phone call, it was Bill, her dad’s football coach. Her dad had been playing in a match and had been elbowed in the face and was on his way to hospital. Once he was at the hospital they realised it was more serious than a simple broken nose and the little girl’s dad needed major surgery to rebuild his skull. Hours of surgery, two metal plates and a very large scar later the little girl’s dad made it home for Christmas.
It will surprise none of you to realise that the little girl was me. So thank you to the wonderful staff of the Royal Devon and Exeter, and Derriford Hospitals all those years ago for working so hard to save my dad; Thank you to the transport team who rushed him from Exeter to Plymouth when he needed an emergency brain scan; and thank you to all the doctors, nurses, radiographers, health care assistants and everyone else who continues to make the NHS function day in day out, who give up Christmases with their families to do their utmost to care for all their patients. Who work past the end of their shift day after day and give their all despite all the added pressures they face. I had the great pleasure of working for the NHS in Scotland for several years, and met so many of its wonderful clinical staff. I even have first hand experience of the care they provide as for the first time in my life I landed myself in hospital, with my own dose of urgent surgery and a few days on IV antibiotics. The NHS may not be perfect but I will always be grateful for its existence. Long may it continue.