New book is a "love letter to the NHS"

Friday 26 May 2017

Alison Murdoch Bed 12

A new book tells the story of a patient whose life was saved by the expertise of staff on the Intensive Care Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital after he fell into a coma.

In an emotional rollercoaster of a read, Bed 12 by Alison Murdoch, charts her husband, Simon’s, recovery from viral encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

The book thoughtfully describes the fragile highs and lows of seeing a partner on the Intensive Care Unit, the routine of hospital life from a carer’s point of view, and the role of faith.

Alison, 52, a charity worker from South London, recalls listening to a free lunchtime concert in the hospital's Central Hall and writes: "A family of three shyly approaches me, asking if I need either company or a handkerchief. They tell me that their beaming toddler has just emerged from four months in intensive care following the successful transplant of a kidney from his father.

"In this extraordinary place, which strips away all pretensions and disguises, I feel closer to my fellow human beings than I ever have before."

After five weeks in intensive care and eight days on Hillyers Ward, Simon, 58, speaks appreciatively of the staff who cared for him. He says: “More than 100 medical staff at St Thomas’ were involved in my treatment and care and I marvel at their skill and patience. In hospital I met people who I would have been unlikely to encounter otherwise.

"You quickly learn that everyone has their own story of suffering and survival. This helped me realise early on that there was nothing exceptional about what had happened to me, and that every day other people have similar or far worse experiences. Someone else is in Bed 12 in the Intensive Care Unit at this moment.

“In truth this illness and recovery has been an extraordinary blessing. I have seen so much of the inherent goodness of people, from the kindness and skill of the hospital and community staff to the loyalty and affection of so many friends.”

Richard Beale, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at Guy's and St Thomas', says: "Bed 12 contains so much from which those of us providing intensive care could and should learn."

The book, described by broadcaster Dr Phil Hammond as a "love letter to the NHS and the everyday acts of kindness that keep it afloat", is published by Hikari Press at £9.99. It can be purchased from Amazon and all good bookshops from 25 May.

Last updated: March 2022

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