How does it feel to confront a pandemic from the inside, one patient at a time? To bridge the gulf between a perilously unwell patient in quarantine and their distraught family outside? To be uncertain whether the protective equipment you wear fits the science or the size of the government stockpile? To strive your utmost to maintain your humanity even while barricaded behind visors and masks?
Rachel is a palliative care doctor who cared for the most gravely unwell patients on the Covid-19 wards of her hospital. Amid the tensions, fatigue and rising death toll, she witnessed the courage of patients and NHS staff alike in conditions of unprecedented adversity. For all the bleakness and fear, she found that moments that could stop you in your tracks abounded. People who rose to their best, upon facing the worst, as a microbe laid waste to the population.
Her new book, Breathtaking, is an unflinching insider’s account of medicine in the time of coronavirus. Drawing on testimony from nursing, acute and intensive care colleagues – as well as, crucially, her patients – Clarke argue that this age of contagion has inspired a profound attentiveness to – and gratitude for – what matters most in life.