A moving, lyrical, beautifully written portrait of a nurse and the lives she has touched.
Christie Watson spent twenty years working as a nurse, and in this intimate, poignant and remarkably powerful book, she opens the doors of the hospital and shares its secrets. She takes us by her side down hospital corridors to visit the wards and the patients who are unforgettable. In the neonatal unit, premature babies fight for their lives, hovering at the very edge of survival, like tiny Emmanuel wrapped up in a sandwich bag. In the cancer wards, the nurses administer chemotherapy and, long after the medicine stops working, something more important--which Watson recognizes when her own father is dying of cancer. In the mental health unit, Derek attempts to take his life. In the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Charlotte loses her legs following meningitis, and the nurses wash the hair of a little girl to remove the smell of smoke from a house fire. The emergency room is overcrowded as ever, with waves of alcohol and drug addicted patients, as well as patients like Betty, suffering chest pain, frail and alone. The stories of the geriatric ward--Gladys and older patients like her--show the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society.
In the smallest of actions, the most undervalued of professions provides the most vital care and kindness. All of us will touch illness in our lifetime, and we will all depend upon the support and dignity that nurses offer us in our most vulnerable moments; yet these women and men who form the vanguard of our health service remain largely behind the scenes and publicly unsung. Through the stories in this book comes an understanding of what we must value most dearly--the urgency of care and compassion.
In this age of fear, hate and division, Christie Watson, an award-winning novelist as well as a nurse, has written a book that reminds us of all that we share, and of what it is to be human.
"This beautiful memoir—tender, informative, unflinching, every sentence filled with compassion—has reminded me that when I have felt most alone I am of course not alone at all." —Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
"Moving, eloquent, funny, inspiring—an urgent book for our times." —Sarah Bakewell, author of At the Existentialist Café
"I was enthralled from the start. Nurses' voices are rarely heard and Christie is so honest, wise and observant of people that she is just the person to do their story justice. And of course she writes beautifully. The image that stayed with me long after I had put the book down was of the nurse always with the patient, even after everybody else has gone" —Suzanne O'Sullivan, author of It's All in Your Head
"Christie Watson is a remarkable writer turning her attention to a crucially important conversation. This book is eloquent, moving and searingly relevant to all of us" —Nathan Filer, author of The Shock of the Fall
"It is very hard to describe the essence of nursing, but Christie's story captures it. Through her powerful writing the true value of the nurse becomes clear" —Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing
"Christie Watson shines the wisest of lights on the daily practice of caring for others. She celebrates kindness that is rooted in true respect for human dignity and equality—a kindness without which society would be a much sadder place. This piercingly tender book will make you laugh, cry and reflect on what life is all about." —Nicky Parker, publisher at Amnesty International UK
"A remarkable book. I learned more in Chapter 3 than I have in all the other books I've read this year. Watson illustrates why a nurse has a harder job than 99 per cent of lawyers (I am one) and deserves to be paid more. Absolutely brilliant!" —Clive Stafford Smith OBE, human rights lawyer
"If you want to know what nursing is, then read this book" —Robert Sowney, Chair, RCN Foundation
About the Author:
Christie Watson is a British novelist and former nurse. She won the Costa First Novel Award for her first book, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away. Her second novel, Where Women Are Kings, was also widely translated and received international acclaim. She lives in London with her children.