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  • Published: 3 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784708474
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $19.99

Seven Signs of Life

Stories from an Intensive Care Doctor




An insightful, tender and inspiring memoir that explores the emotional side of a doctor’s working life.

An insightful, tender and inspiring memoir that explores the reality of life on the NHS front line.

‘Brilliant, compelling… A hugely life-affirming book’ Mail on Sunday Grief. Anger. Joy. Fear. Distraction. Disgust. Hope.

All emotions we expect to encounter over our lifetime. But what if this was every day? And what if your ability to manage them was the difference between life and death? For Aoife Abbey, a doctor in intensive care, these experiences are part of the job – from grief when you make a potentially fatal mistake to joy when the ward unexpectedly breaks into song. Seven Signs of Life is Abbey’s extraordinary account of what it means to be alive and how it feels to care for a living.

‘Sensitive, honest and, yes, brave… Compulsive reading’ Nigella Lawson

‘Heartfelt, honest, illuminating and wise’ Julia Samuel, author of This Too Shall Pass

  • Published: 3 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784708474
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Aoife Abbey

Aoife Abbey grew up in Dublin, Ireland. She completed an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, before graduating in 2011 from medical school at Warwick University. She is a member of the Royal College of Physicians, Fellow of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and council member at the Intensive Care Society UK. From September 2016, Aoife Abbey wrote a blog under the guise of the British Medical Association’s 'Secret Doctor’. This is her first book.

Praise for Seven Signs of Life

A brilliant, compelling account of what it is like to spend your days caring for patients "on the fringe of existence" ... A hugely life-affirming book. In between the many grim situations encountered on a daily basis, Abbey shows us moments of both joy and deep emotional connection

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

Heartfelt, honest, illuminating and wise – a wonderful book that I would urge everyone to read

Julia Samuel, author of Grief Works

A powerful glimpse into the high stakes of intensive care …Above all this book is insightful about the grey areas where a doctor must go ... Some readers may be wearying of doctor memoirs. This one ... has a freshness and a sincerity that moved me. She is a gifted writer ... honest, compassionate, sensitive… [and] the doctor we would crave in our greatest need

Melanie Reid, The Times

Abbey’s book stands out among the current crop of doctor-penned memoirs for its thoughtful, compassionate reflections on life in Intensive Care. Abbey presents the usual case studies with an unusual depth of feeling and evident love for those in her care. She may be in the earlier stages of her career, but the author writes with a maturity and vocational fervour well beyond her years. An unsung classic of the genre

Leah Hazard, author of Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story

A thoughtful and necessary book about a world all of us might inhabit at some point in our lives

Rosita Boland, Irish Times

A wonderfully frank assessment of the emotions shared – and unshared – between doctors and their patients ... Dr Abbey writes movingly ... and asks us all to think about what we want for ourselves at the end.

Daily Mail

A wonderfully frank assessment of the emotions shared – and unshared – between doctors and their patients ... Dr Abbey writes movingly ... and asks us all to think about what we want for ourselves at the end.

Daily Mail

Bold, courageous and most welcome ... Abbey imparts a wisdom concerning human emotional life that is sophisticated, and also simple and poignant ... Abbey is brave; she is lion-hearted in her no-holes-barred account of what it is like to care for a living ... If she is representative of an emerging generation of healthcare professionals, there is reason to be optimistic for the future of healthcare.

Paul D'Alton, Irish Times

A sensitive, honest, unsentimental and, yes, brave piece of writing that makes for compulsive reading

NIGELLA LAWSON

A beautiful insight into the extraordinary highs and lows of intensive care. Dr Aoife Abbey writes with such sensitivity and obvious kindness about the emotions that define us all, doctors and patients alike. I was deeply moved by this wonderful book.

Rachel Clarke, author of YOUR LIFE IN MY HANDS

Effortlessly absorbing and illuminating ... Seven Signs of Life offers a prismatic set of arguments for a truth that we too often forget: doctors, nurses and consultants are human, too ... a perspective that feels like new territory ... Measured out in Abbey's crystalline, personable voice, it occurs to you that this is a somewhat Herculean feat.

Belfast Telegraph

Aoife Abbey’s honesty and insight are breath-taking. If you want to find out what it is really like to be a doctor, read this book.

Dr Caroline Elton, author of ALSO HUMAN: The Inner Lives of Doctors

Illness is a thicket through which doctors and patients struggle—sometimes at odds, sometimes in concert. Into the harrowing penumbra between life and death come Dr. Abbey's signs of intelligent life. These seven cogent chapters probe the range of experience and emotions that patients, families, and medical workers must navigate. A welcome addition to the medical-literary canon.

Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of WHAT PATIENTS SAY, WHAT DOCTORS HEAR

Honest, compelling and compassionate ... worthy of a place on the medical school curriculum ... Dr Abbey is the type of doctor most people I think would want to find at the side of their bed if they were critically ill. This is a book with a warm heart, but also does not shy from honesty ... This is not a grim read. It's beautifully written, with valuable insights about how different patients and their families want different things from her and it is fascinating.

Fergal Bowers, RTÉ

An extended, often lyrical, reflection on the complex web of emotions – fear and hope, grief and joy – evoked by the routine life and death dramas of the intensive care unit

James Le Fanu, Tablet

Excellent... An absolutely spellbinding insight into being an intensive care doctor

Russell Howard

Seven Signs of Life set out to share the world of intensive care through compelling storytelling…touching, educational, and encouraging. They are stories worth telling, and for the doctor and non-doctor alike, stories worth reading

Jack Brindley, British Medical Journal

Raw power . . . She is trying to lay bare the complex feelings of people who make life-or-death decisions on a daily basis. . . . What Abbey wants us to understand is that doctors too weep and rage, that although they might keep their expressions flat and their voices even, that's because they've been trained to stay cool in high-drama moments, not because they're cold people

New York Times

[Seven Signs of Life] has a moving sincerity and freshness. Abbey is a talented writer and a wise voice on the dilemmas surrounding death

Melanie Reid, The Times

[A] harrowing, [but] ultimately beautiful, book about life as an intensive-care doctor is one of the best from the recent rash of medical memoirs

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