An uninspiring title and a dull cover put the Christian principle 'don't judge' to the test. The only initial attraction of this book was the sub-title, 'The true story of a rare illness'. Within was a book which not only filled an unexpected hour in New Street Station but kept me reading into the early morning.
'Patient' is the account of Ben Watt, a previously healthy though mildly asthmatic man who suddenly descends into ill health. In a matter of days he is hurtling toward death's door. It is the chronological story of his illness interspersed with ramblings, the thoughts of a desperately sick man. Ben's descriptions are vivid and his emotions are so clearly recalled that the reader is captured by his past reality.
The story unfolds in a way that leaves us empathising with Ben. He does not ask for pity but simply relates his experience. He waited more than eight weeks for a diagnosis, making the book's title something of a pun. Throughout his ordeal, his girlfriend Tracey was the anchor in his life, the only connection between him and the world around. Neither of them are Christians; still, I found a reflection of God's faithfulness to us in Tracey's devotion to Ben.
Things that patients notice and feel, coherent reality or not, are emphatically brought home. Some are obvious - the bleakness of an old x-ray department late at night - but others are less so, more personal. As medics performing our daily duties, we do not experience this dimension of our patients' illnesses; we are not inside their heads. I think that any medical student or doctor who doesn't have first-hand experience of being ill would gain valuable insight from reading this book.
Clinical Medical Student