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In Shock

My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope

Rana Awdish


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ISBN10: 1250293774
ISBN13: 9781250293770

Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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Dr. Rana Awdish never imagined that an emergency trip to the hospital would result in hemorrhaging nearly all of her blood volume and losing her unborn first child. But after her first visit, Dr. Awdish spent months fighting for her life, enduring consecutive major surgeries and experiencing multiple overlapping organ failures. At each step of the recovery process, Awdish was faced with something even more unexpected: repeated cavalier behavior from her fellow physicians—indifference following human loss, disregard for anguish and suffering, and an exacting emotional distance.

Hauntingly perceptive and beautifully written, In Shock allows the reader to transform alongside Awidsh and watch what she discovers in our carefully-cultivated, yet often misguided, standard of care. Awdish comes to understand the fatal flaws in her profession and in her own past actions as a physician while achieving, through unflinching presence, a crystalline vision of a new and better possibility for us all.

As Dr. Awdish finds herself up against the same self-protective partitions she was trained to construct as a medical student and physician, she artfully illuminates the dysfunction of disconnection. Shatteringly personal, and yet wholly universal, she offers a brave road map for anyone navigating illness while presenting physicians with a new paradigm and rationale for embracing the emotional bond between doctor and patient.


Praise for In Shock

"Awdish’s journey from physician to helpless patient and then back to reformed physician is equal parts dramatic, engaging and instructive. Her experience of acute illness makes very clear how doctors who believe they are in control of situations establish and perpetuate barriers between themselves and those in their charge . . . Awdish’s work is singular in its rawness and willingness to show us a person at one with her pain and isolation, able to relate completely through her writing to the intense feelings of helplessness that confront almost every patient admitted to a hospital."The New York Times Book Review

“Awdish's story is grueling: a catastrophic miscarriage, multiple organ failure, the uncertainty that accompanies a sudden medical crisis. In Shock searches for a glimmer of hope in life’s darkest moments, and finds it.”—The Washington Post

"In Shock should be required reading in every medical, nursing and health professional school. Dr. Awdish cuts to the core of what is ailing the healthcare system: a loss of humanity. Her honest and poignant appraisal of how modern medicine systematizes illness and suffering is a wake up call to rethink medical pedagogy and the concept of how we truly heal. Ultimately, she gives us hope that through better understanding of each other and ourselves, we can reinvigorate the human connection at the heart of healthcare."—Andrew J. Shin, JD, MPH, Senior Director, Policy, The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare

"Dr. Rana Awdish brings the much-needed voice of the patient to life in a courageous retelling of her catastrophic illness and stunning revelations of the major disconnect between the communication caregivers deliver and what patients need. Rana’s story is not only compelling; it’s a call to action. This book will, hopefully, spur the change needed to develop a culture of empathy among providers beginning in our training programs and carrying through to practices, hospitals and health systems."Wright Lassiter III, President & CEO, Henry Ford Health System

"Dr. Rana Awdish suffered through catastrophic illness and loss as a young physician. Her perspective on her experiences as a patient transformed her understanding of how medicine is practiced today. In Shock reminds us of the essential aspect of the individual narrative and the vital importance of communication; not just between patients and their doctors but between doctors and themselves. Dr. Awdish's compassion for both her patients and those providing care for patients comes from profound insight into the vulnerability that illness imposes and the suffering that asks for acknowledgement and understanding."—Susan Clark Ball, M.D., M.P.H, M.S., Associate Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and Assistant Director of the Bernbaum Unit, Center for Special Studies, New York Presbyterian Hospital

"In Shock is an ideal text for courses in narrative medicine, and similar classes that are now increasingly taught under a variety of names in medical schools nationwide. It is a welcome addition to a canon that includes such diverse works as Arthur Frank’s The Wounded Storyteller, Danielle Ofri’s Singular Intimacies, and What Patients Say, What Doctors Feel, Samuel Shem’s The House of God. Together, these works lay bare the dilemma of the doctor in the age of the modern estrangement from care (as opposed to cure) and in bearing witness to this crisis, they urge us forward."—Matthew von Unwerth, Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University

“An unrivaled view of healthcare as it really is—its triumphs and missteps—through the riveting, nakedly honest story of a physician who became seriously ill.”—Leonard L. Berry, Ph.D., Regents Professor, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

"In Shock is a brilliantly written account of Awdish's near death experience and what it is like to be on the 'other side' of medicine. Through her sometimes shocking, often heartbreaking and always honest storytelling, Awdish poignantly brings to the forefront both our collective and individual shortcomings despite our best intentions. She clearly demonstrates the necessity and urgency for us to move away from 'The House of God' culture, where we were trained to detach and depersonalize, to one that needs to be centered around empathy and caring, not just for the sake of our patients, but for our own humanity."—Sara Hegab, MD, Senior Staff Physician, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Henry Ford Hospital

"A sobering, well-rendered reality check on the desperate need for advanced training on compassion-centric modes of patient care."—Kirkus Reviews

"In a gut-wrenching memoir approaching Job-level suffering, Awdish recounts her ordeal as a doctor-turned-patient and the many changes in her perspective and practice of medicine.”Booklist (starred review)

"A compassionate and critical look at medicine and illness from both a doctor’s and a patient’s perspective."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


A Chance to Die

Medicine can be a magical lens through which to view the human body. Focus its light on an unsorted pile of symptoms and it will converge them neatly into a diagnosis. A swollen, red “strawberry”...



In Shock by Dr. Rana Awdish

Watch the author Rana Awdish as she discusses her book In Shock In a heartbreaking moment, Dr. Rana Awdish finds herself transposed from a young critical care physician into a dying patient. As she deals with the stark reality of the patient experience on the other side of the clipboard, she also discovers the vast chasm between the conventional practice of medicine and the people whose lives doctors are tasked to save. IN SHOCK is a riveting first-hand account and elegant, but urgent call to action, presenting a new paradigm and rationale for embracing the emotional bond between doctor and patient.

About the author

Rana Awdish

DR. RANA AWDISH is the Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and a Critical Care Physician. She was recently named Medical Director of Care Experience for the ($6 billion, 24,000 employee) Health System. She was awarded the Speak-Up Hero award in 2014 for her work on improving communication, as well as the Critical Care Teaching Award in 2016. In 2017 she was a finalist for the Schwartz Center’s 2017 National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year (NCCY) Award and the Physician of the Year award from the Press Ganey National Client Conference. Dr. Awdish is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.


Rana Awdish

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Read about Rana Awdish at the Huff Post