Title: Crushed: My NHS Summer
Author: Jan McCourt
Publisher: University of Buckingham Press 2012
Reviewer: Thomas Dines, Nursing Times contributor
What was it like?
Crushed charts the recovery of farmer Jan McCourt after he is caught under a moving tractor. What follows is a story of frustration, pride and near-constant pain. The book opens with the accident itself, revisiting the event with an admirable frankness. He does a good job of writing about the accident itself in an honest and detailed way.
McCourt comes across as an incredibly likeable narrator. His voice is clear and confident throughout and he is unafraid to give freely of himself; describing his accident, morphine-induced nightmares and the condition of his body with candour. McCourt is not afraid to include humour in the story even at its darkest points; on overhearing a police officer tell a colleague via radio that his accident is potentially fatal he shouts to the policeman that he heard him and “thanks a bunch”. The book is well paced, starting off slowly as the days crawl by and gradually picking up speed as McCourt becomes used to hospital life. He occasionally mixes metaphors, leading to a few confusing sentences and detracting from the impact of the situations he is describing. But he does well to illuminate what must have been a horrific ordeal.
What were the highlights?
The highlight of the book is definitely the insight it gives into the experience of people who are involved in major accidents. It also provides fair appraisal of the NHS from a patient’s point of view, but without ever seeming to complain. Often waiting for procedures and not knowing his future is a source of frustration and even physical pain for McCourt, but he never lets it dampen his view of the hospital or its staff, simply noting the hardships and their consequences without ever condemning them. While it is based on the experience of one, often heavily drugged man, McCourt maintains his sympathy for others and tries to view the situations from the perspectives of staff and fellow patients. The stories of some of the nurses are particularly touching. On one occasion when a porter is not available, a nurse moves his bed and gas through the hospital on her own to ensure he gets the treatment he needs.
Strengths & weaknesses:
The book’s strength lies in McCourt’s voice, which never descends into self-pity. The story is inexplicably peppered with subheadings, sometimes two to a page, which contain a word or phrase from the surrounding text. These do nothing for the story and the only explanation for them would be to make referring back to passages easier, but this feels unnecessary in such a short book so they end up being annoying. The ending is sparing, which is disappointing given the depth of many other parts of the book.
Who should read it?
This book is perfect for anybody who wants to get a better idea of the patient experience within the healthcare system, or simply for any healthcare worker who wishes to hear that their job is appreciated. Despite being an honest account of life after a very serious injury, the book reads like a love letter to the NHS.