Catch your Breath is a gut punch of a memoir by a doctor – and comedian – whose job is to
keep people alive after putting them to sleep. Ed Patrick is an anaesthetist. Strong drugs for
his patients, strong coffee for him.
But it’s not just sleep-giving for this anaesthetist, as he navigates emergencies, patients not
breathing for themselves and living with a terrifying sense of responsibility. It’s enough to
leave anyone feeling numb especially in the midst of a pandemic.
Hilariously funny, moving and truly insightful, it follows Ed’s journey from bewildered
medical student in Aberdeen to unflinching anaesthetist on the NHS frontline. A dose of
insight into life on the hospital wards during the pandemic, while injecting hope that we will
all get through this.
But don’t worry, there’s plenty of laughing gas to be had.
We have all lived a shared experience in the last two years, but for some, the essential workers, the experience was much more acute, it took all they had and more. For those on the front line, in our hospitals and ambulances, our GP surgeries, we asked of them to walk towards a virus that threatened both their lives and of those they cared about. They faced an emotional and physical threat and did so with little thought other than treating those most in need. Nothing in their training could prepare them for the onslaught of the loss of life, the relentless waves of admissions, lack of governmental support and the terrible knowledge that there was little they could do! Yet through all of this, the abuse from the Covid deniers, the corruption around PPI, they kept going, they found humour in the darkest of moments!
This is what Catch Your Breath a deeply moving and often hilariously funny book is about, not just the authors journey to becoming a anesthetist, but the often harrowing reality of life in our already struggling hospitals even before Covid hit. It’s the experience he shared with his colleagues, the sudden knowledge that their lives were about to change for ever, caring for patients would become much harder, more emotionally and physically draining. Their worlds were about to be caught up in a tsunami that left them scared, traumatized and numb. Yet still they got up and carried on, what other choice did they have and they found humour and a connection with humanity wherever they could. People like Ed Patrick looked to their colleagues for support, they took heart from messages left by those working outside of ICU “Good luck, ICU! Love from the Medical Team!”
Please don’t worry it is not all heartbreak and devastation. Yes it is a memoir that hits you at moments like a hammer blow, yes it will upset you, cause you to reflect, but also it will have you rolling around laughing so hard you will need tissues to wipe away tears of laughter. Catch Your Breath moved me from laughter, to moments of remembrance and gave me a whole new appreciation of what working in a hospital is like. It reminded me that humour is the greatest tonic we have, that at it darkest it is the most healing, the more perverse, the more irrelevant the funnier it can be. Because it pushes away the darkest of thoughts, allows those facing what men and women like Ed Patrick did, to maintain some level of sanity.
I laughed hysterically at the moment he was asked to make a unicorn out of a medical glove to distract a young child before he was anesthetized, wanted to hug him tight when he realized he couldn’t save every patient and found what being an anesthetist involved endlessly fascinating.
That he is a comedian as well as an Anaesthetist shines through in his writing, he brings a lightness of touch to his narrative and as a result Catch Your Breath feels like a perversely gentle read despite some of the subject matter! I found I didn’t want to put it down, even when I felt the remembrance of the early days of the Covid Pandemic coming back, because his warmth and humour made it easier to deal with. His and his colleagues sense of humanity shines through and I can’t recommend this book enough to all of you.
So to all those that railed against nurses doing dance video’s on Tik Tok, for those that blamed medical teams for cancelling surgery, closing clinics, take a step back and take a long deep look into your souls and acknowledge the debt we owe these people.
About the author
Ed Patrick has performed across the UK, including at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ed hosts
the “Comedians’ Surgery” podcast where he speaks to guests including Joe Lycett, Rose
Matafeo and Reginald D Hunter about their health stories and experiences.
He also created and presented “Infectious Personalities” with Hat Trick Productions,
broadcast on BBC Radio 2 with guests Charlie Brooker and Sindhu Vee. Ed has written and
performed on BBC Radio 4, for shows such as “Now Wash Your Hands” and “Newsjack”, and
he has also written for the Guardian about the intersection between medicine and comedy.