Vital Times 2017 - 78

pain, the surgeon had to operate as swiftly as possible. But
speed made for poor surgery.

most vital times of their lives - childbirth, surgery, intensive
care, and sometimes even at the moment of death.

Modern surgery was impossible until a way had been found to
protect the patient from the pain."

Think about the parents whose child needs surgery. The
problem may not be that serious - maybe the surgeon
needs to fix crossed eyes or take out tonsils. But the parents
know, deep down, that though the surgery may be minor,
the anesthesia is not. And when we take that child into the
operating room, we must always remember the trust those
parents are placing in us, to keep their child safe to the very
best of our ability.

Think about that. Modern surgery was impossible before
anesthesia. I suppose I was a peculiar sort of little girl, but
I found this fascinating. The book went on to talk about
Dr. Crawford Long, who in 1842 was the first surgeon to
perform an operation under ether anesthesia, in the town
of Jefferson, Georgia, about 60 miles northeast of here. The
author wrote about new anesthesia gases like - wait for
it - cyclopropane, and explained how anesthesia gases are
safer if oxygen is mixed with them. Good to know!
Fast forward about 20 years. When I went to medical
school, although I enjoyed nearly all my clinical rotations,
there wasn't any doubt in my mind by the end of the third
year that I wanted to go into anesthesia.
It really is a great profession! For anyone who might not
be familiar with our field, we can sum it up by saying
that in anesthesia we take care of patients while surgeons
try to fix them. It's not only a matter of preventing pain
and awareness. We take care of the high blood pressure,
diabetes, asthma, or any other medical problems our
patients may have. We have to know a fair amount about
internal medicine, and pediatrics, and birthing babies. And
we must learn about each different kind of surgery, and
how to tailor the anesthesia to the operation as well as to
the patient.
People often think that anesthesia sounds sort of dry and
technical. It's true that there is a great deal of detail to learn,
about drugs and techniques. You might even think that
there's not a lot of human interaction, or connection with
patients.
But let's take a closer look. This year I have the honor
of being the president of the California Society of
Anesthesiologists. Our tagline is "Physicians for Vital
Times." Because in anesthesia, we are with patients at the

78 		|	 	 CSA	Vital	Times

It's humbling, too, to think of the times that patients are
looking up at us just before they go under anesthesia. Think
of the terrified young mother in labor, who knows that her
baby is in distress, and that she needs general anesthesia for
an emergency C-section. Think of the patient who's been in a
terrible accident, or a victim of violence. There may be times
ahead - and I hope there will be mercifully few of them -
when your voice may be the last voice a patient hears on this
earth. It matters what we say, and even more, it matters how we
say it.
When I started my anesthesia training, most patients came
into the hospital for surgery the night before, and we would
do preoperative visits without any time pressure. Those days
are over! Today we're lucky to have 10 minutes to complete a
preoperative history, examine the patient, discuss anesthesia,
and document it all in the computer! Yet those 10 minutes
are vitally important to that patient. How we handle that
interaction makes all the difference in whether our patients feel
safe putting their lives in our hands.
We've made anesthesia very safe, and we've made it look easy
- maybe too easy. People can forget that when anesthesia
goes wrong, the results can be deadly. In my role as CSA
President, I have been sounding the alarm for better anesthesia
care for children in dental offices. You might have seen me on
TV last month, with NBC reporter Kate Snow, talking about
tragic cases of children who died, or suffered permanent brain
damage, caused by anesthesia gone horribly wrong in the
dentist's office.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vital Times 2017

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Vital Times 2017 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/csvt/vital-times-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/csvt/2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/csvt/2019
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https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/csvt/2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/csvt/2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/csvt/2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/csvt/2014
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