I began writing A Measure of Light in the summer of 2015 while I was ill in hospital with severe sepsis. Though quite weak and barely mobile, I determinedly sat up in bed for up to an hour a day typing away on my laptop, with a cannula on the back of my hand banging against the keyboard. Although I didn’t fully understand exactly what was wrong with me, I still felt a pressing need to try and record the sequence of events as they unfolded, in a valiant attempt to make sense how a routine surgical procedure resulted in my near death. At the time I knew nothing about sepsis, so writing the book afforded an opportunity for me to educate myself about how this extraordinary situation came about. Being a writer, compiling a written account seemed like a natural option, as well as offering a therapeutic outlet in which to do so.
The kernel of A Measure of Light emerged from a detailed diary kept by my partner during my time in intensive care. This diary was written on the advice of one of the consultants as a way of helping me to understand what actually went on during my two weeks in intensive care, the majority of which I spent in an induced coma and subsequent state of delirium. This intensely moving and poignant account was supplemented by my own memories, medical notes and additional research, and formed the basis of the book which took shape and was written over the following year.
As the book reached completion and was read by others, I came to realise the benefits it could have for the wider pubic. Most of these readers, like me, had never heard of sepsis, so there was an intrinsic value in utilising the book to raise awareness about the dangers of this widespread and potentially fatal illness. Many healthcare professionals also told me they appreciated the insights offered from a patient perspective, which enabled them to consider ways they could approach caring for an individual with a life-threatening condition.
The book is also intended to help those who’ve been adversely affected by sepsis, or a similarly traumatic ordeal, to know that they’re not alone and there are others who can understand and relate to their experience. I’ve had sepsis survivors thank me for providing a vehicle through which their loved ones can better come to terms with some of the horrors which they went through.
I launched A Measure of Light on World Sepsis Day, 13 September 2017 and use the book as a basis to deliver talks on behalf of the UK Sepsis Trust to various groups about my personal experience as a sepsis survivor and the lessons I have learned as a result. Along with advocating vigilance in the recognition and treatment of sepsis, the book also explores the rights and options available to an individual as an NHS patient. Most of all, A Measure of Light is intended to provide hope and inspiration for anyone who has been through an extremely difficult period in their lives, and actively encourages people to fully engage again with what is meaningful and important to them, and to appreciate all that life still has to offer.
About the author:
Kirsten Lavine is a Canadian, UK-based writer, teacher and oral historian. She has written or worked on various oral history publications, including: Bear in Mind: Stories of the Troubles, Yarn Spinning, Twin Spire Life, From Baltic Sea to Baltic Wharf Hineni: Life Portraits from a Jewish Community and Seventy Years of Struggle and Achievement. This is her first true-life account of her own experiences.