The second of neurosurgeon Henry Marsh’s autobiographies follows him after retirement, with a look back to significant moments of his career, and his post-retirement trip to help a fellow neurosurgeon in Nepal.
I was really looking forward to reading ‘Admissions’ as ‘Do No Harm‘ was one of my favourite reads of 2017. I bought it just after Christmas and read it quite soon after. I must admit that although I did enjoy it I was a little disappointed, it just doesn’t meet up to ‘Do No Harm’.
It focused a lot more on Marsh’s personal life than ‘Do No Harm’ had. Whilst it was impressive to see what he was capable in other parts of his life (fitting windows, building rooms) I didn’t really care much about it.
I do think however his acquisition of the cottage as well as his trip to Nepal really said something about his character, and of the big change that retirement can be. Marsh seemed almost to fear having nothing to do. He spoke a lot of dementia, and I can imagine that for someone who really has relied on their brain, and who has seen what can happen when it goes wrong the thought that he could loose his own brain function would be especially scary.
I did enjoy the briefer steps into the medical. There were less descriptions of surgery than in the first book, although some may prefer that. We did however get to see more severe brain injuries during his time in Nepal, as the patients had to pay for treatment and had less access so were more likely to further progressed.
Partly because most of the medical sections were done in countries where languages other than English were spoken I felt that we got less of an insight into the patients. Sometimes we did get a little third-hand insight, but that was less detailed. In fact in Nepal Marsh tries to teach the doctors about the importance of seeing the patients as people, rather than something to be treated.
It was also interesting to see medicine in other cultures. I was particularly struck by how important being at home was for those in Nepal, to the point where families would use a hand breathing bag to take an ill person home to die which seems like amazing dedication, but also seems somehow right.
There was less of his views of the NHS too, which made it somewhat less emotive. You could still get the sense that Marsh loves the NHS though, but hates what is happening to it. I don’t think that’s uncommon in the NHS community.
I think those who preferred the more personal bits of ‘Do No Harm’ will love this one, but as far as medical memoirs go it’s not the most medical. Still a very good overall memoir though
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