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Seven Signs of Life


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A beautiful and perceptive memoir that explores the emotional life of an intensive care unit, by a doctor and former writer behind The Secret Doctor blog

About the Author

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 wrote a blog under the guise of the British Medical Association's 'The Secret Doctor'. This is her first book.


"A sensitive, honest, unsentimental and, yes, brave piece of writing that makes for compulsive reading" -- NIGELLA LAWSON
"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 *
"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 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 * RTE *
"An extended, often lyrical, reflection on the complex web of emotions - fear and hope, grief and hoy - evoked by the routine life and death dramas of the intensive care unit" -- James Le Fanu * Tablet *

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