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You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor's Stories of Life, Death, and in Between    by Daniela Lamas order for
You Can Stop Humming Now
by Daniela Lamas
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor's Stories of Life, Death, and in Between, critical care physician/health reporter Daniela Lamas takes an extraordinarily empathetic look at what comes after aggressive interventions to save lives, going beyond the typical young doctors' conviction that survival 'was all that mattered'.

Through her own experiences, she shows how patients and loved ones making decisions for them (even after detailed explanations) don't always understand what's ahead. She also describes the aftermaths of modern medicine's 'cutting-edge treatments and invasive technologies' - some good while other folk are left clinging by a thread to a life many would consider not worth living. She tells us about 'people, each of them trying to make their way through the unexpected burdens, tradeoffs, and triumphs of survival.'

Dr. Lamas starts with the patient who inspired the title of her book, a young man dying in a cardiac intensive care unit. She shares experiences in a Boston Respiratory Acute Care Unit, where patients are desperately ill, but mostly not in imminent danger - they 'have not yet recovered and perhaps never will.' She tells us that chronic critical illness 'is all lingering and suffering.' Patients and their families will play long odds for a chance of survival, sometimes resulting in 'a really bad end.'

Dr. Lamas talks of something I'd never heard of before, patients who suffer PTSD after massive surgeries, giving the example of an art professor who required intensive therapy to deal with it. She shares with us a young man's long, slow, and still partial recovery from brain injury; a young mother's painful endurance while waiting and hoping for a lung transplant; the challenge of living with cystic fibrosis; and the entrepreneurial case of someone finding a needed kidney transplant through social media!

In her Afterword, Dr. Lamas speaks of wanting to learn what it is to live 'for days or maybe for years, as a result of today's medical interventions'. She expected to find those 'who would perhaps prefer for their suffering to have ended', but also encountered many who were still able to find meaning in diminished lives. What I took from this book is the importance for all of us to understand the choices in medical decisions, and exactly where they might lead.

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