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An Amazing Murmur of the Heart

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Title: An Amazing Murmur of the Heart

Author: Cecil Helman

Publisher: Hammersmith Health Books

Reviewer: Jane Brocksom, rology & continence nurse specialist. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

What was it like?         

From a sceptical start this book has been an amazing read humorous in parts, poignant in others. A compact and readable book it had me intrigued and by chapter two, I was agreeing with Mr Helman “Where has the patient gone?” Now this book won’t answer the question but it does begin to set you own mind off thinking and reflecting. In fact you may just have your faith in humanity restored. The introduction sets the scene upon the “healing” and “curing” aspects of health, the healing care of sick patients not only treating there symptoms but listening and dealing with their hopes, fears, dreams and desires. By contrast the curing focuses on the care of the body itself, its diseases and dysfunctions - the psyche and the soma….. We can all be guilty of looking at the human body as a physical object - minimising or forgetting the “the amazing murmur of the heart” I suspect if we do it, its out of self preservation not uncaringly. No human being is ordinary…..

What were the highlights?       

The chapters comprise of wonderful titles including – The dubbuk of Eddie Barnet: Masks of the skin: Waiting for godette: Healing and curing: The psyche and the soma: Double deaths: The apotheosis of the brain: Heartsink: Wounded healers - all thought provoking and inspiring chapters. I also found some new words and phrases:-

Synecdoche - the part of the body, which comes to represent the whole (in my area it’s the bladder) 

Heartsink - patients with complex psyche and soma, who require/demand all our attention and time but we know we have no answers to “cure”. We feel so helpless and drained after seeing them - a wounded healer…..

Palimpsest - those thousands of painful, shocking memories both old and new you never forget, layer upon layer - never erased just replaced layer upon layer covered over with the next…..

Déformation professionelle - a HCP’s distorted world view of healing and curing……..

Strengths & weaknesses:        

I really hope this book is publicised widely as it deserves an audience. It’s a wonderful thought provoking book, which flows from page to page. I can find no weaknesses just a sincere desire to promote the positives and implore anyone within the healthcare setting to search it out and consider reading – reclaiming your heart and soul in the process. We need the technology and scientific advances but let us not forget the tangible elements of the “murmuring heart”.

Who should read it?    

Any HCP with an interest in the psyche and soma of human caring should consider searching out this book. It’s so easily readable but leaves and indelible mark long after the last page, incidentally a couple of weeks after finishing I was doing a talk on painful bladder syndrome and used the books contents in my summing up slide. 

“It seems there are times……when you simply cannot cure, and you cannot heal. When there is nothing that you can do to change a persons situation, or to alter there behaviour….. It means seeing ones medical role in a different way, accepting the limitations of medicine, and the fact that there are times when all one can do is sit back and watch, and listen closely, and bear compassionate witness as the long cavalcade of human suffering passes slowly before you”


An Amazing Murmur of the Heart

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