Ex Character is the architecture of the being.
It is important to know about my past to understand how my career as an anaesthetist ended prematurely. Furthermore, knowing about me gives perspective to Sleeping with the Gasman.
People sometimes comment that the front cover of the book appears sinister. The reason this particular image was chosen was because many people are afraid of “going under” anaesthesia. There is nothing whatsoever sinister within the text. Indeed the editors described Sleeping with the Gasman as immersive, compelling, informative and humorous. The book is written for the general public. It provides the public an insight to the work of anaesthetists. The book then becomes an educational tool. There is no medical jargon within the text. it is an easy and relaxing read.
The anaesthetist. How many of the public who or what we are? How we put them to sleep? How many people know that we are fully qualified doctors, not technicians? Our training is much like an apprenticeship. In the early days of our career, as “baby” trainees, we are given a mentor. The mentor trains us the basic principles of anaesthesia. As time progresses and we become more experienced, pass a few exams en route we are given greater independence. After several years of training, we eventually reach the highest pinnacle of the profession, the consultant. On the first appointment to that honourable position, it is possible to see the heads of some swell and throb with excitement. Most did not quite appreciate what was ahead for them. When a newly appointed consultant had never gassed a patient with a major bleeding vessel in the abdomen, was she fit for purpose in that position? I don’t think so. She called her husband for assistance. Why was she even appointed? Oh I know, it was known as a slap on the back and professional nepotism.
What Did I Do?
As an anaesthetist. I become adept at putting in sharp needles here there and almost everywhere. Give me a vein. Give me an artery. A needle in the neck. A needle in the groin. Everything was possible. Some of these procedures were done once the patient was asleep.
The less pleasant tasks included inserting tubes into patients with seriously smelly breath. Into various places that had not seen much personal hygiene in recent times. This particularly applied to very obese patients. If they could not reach or see their genitalia easily, how could they possibly wash themselves properly? Anyone any ideas? If so, please forward them to me on the back of a postage stamp. Too many burgers and other junk food makes MrX a fat boy heading to meet his maker prematurely.
What I Do Now?
Why would I want to give up such a rewarding career? Well, one day during the rush hour traffic, my car decided that it would career through a motorway crash barrier. It then performed acrobatics to get me 300 meters into farmer Jim’s field. It was finally stopped by this hard stuff apparently called a tree. I was told by other medics latterly they were surprised I survived. It could easily have been me meeting my maker in the centre of earth with all the other fallen angels having a nip and beer with them. Fate and destiny, perhaps I deserved it. Having no idea as to what happened that day has been a huge emotional trauma. One that is not easy to recover from. Furthermore, being a patient in a hospital was the bizarrest, oddest experience for me. It felt like playing football for the opposition.
End of career? Was that my final hurrah before I said, ”Bye, bye” permanently? Nothing was certain.
The chasm left by losing my career was equivalent to the Mariana Trench. A hole so deep that it was impossible to escape. It equated to marital polygamy wife and work. Since my wife was away on a sabbatical, my marriage became monogamous, just work.
Initially i had anticipated returning to work after one year. I would be able to drive and be married back to work. As that first year passed, other complications developed. I had been a senior doctor. It did not take long for me to realise my career was definitely history.
The accident left me with short term memory loss, disorientation, blank periods and on occasions, convulsions. That is by not by any means a comprehensive list of adverse eventualities. After each convulsion, that was another one year delay before I could drive and retrain. It was all over.
It is sometimes said,
that everything happens for a reason.
That may well have been true. It did not offer any consolation to me. I slowly but surely found myself playing the role of househusband, without a wife at home. I didn’t worry about that much but still very much missed her and work. It was hard to accept a change in life consisting of over thirty years of work to end in moments.
The role of house-husbandry was difficult on a day to day basis. Not because i didn’t enjoy it, more because I couldn’t remember what to do and on which day. I had endless lists causing more confusion. I rarely completed one task before moving onto another. Eventually I did find a way of orientating myself to some of these tasks……
When sweeping the kitchen and bathroom, The Moonlight Sonata was perfect. Whilst washing floors I danced with the mop to the Blue Danube. Vacuuming was a choice between Finlandia by Sibelius and the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.
I also tried cooking for myself. I just could not manage to cook correctly. I had been cooking since I was fifteen years old. Too much spice, to little, wrong herbs. You name it, I managed it. Initially it was impossible to follow instructions in a recipe book. Eventually I bought in pre-cooked food or sneaked in a delivery. Having lost my income, this was not a wise use of money. Eventually I had no choice but to rent out part of the house. That hurt. The loss of privacy made it considerably worse.
As a drop of bitter medicine,
though minute, may have a salutary force,
so words, though few and painful,
uttered seasonably may rouse the prostrate
energies of those who meet
misfortune with despondency.
Those were the days of real despondency for me. I had forgotten my passwords for the websites with whom I had memberships for many years. When the passwords were retrieved I would write them down on a piece of paper. It would be a matter of days before I lost the paper. The whole episode became a waste of trees. I tried putting all the passwords into my phone. It was not long before I became adept at losing that too. Whatever I did, I f****d it up. The anger inside was becoming explosive.
Often when working I was stuck in hotels. Many weekends I stayed with my elderly mother. We would get out but she tired easily and quickly. During those periods I tapped away on my phone. I didn’t think much about it as I had no intention to publishing anything.
After the accident a friend visited.
If you have two friends in your lifetime you are lucky.
If you have one good friend,
you are more than lucky.
She saw what I had written. Thereby became a proofreader. She was absolutely adamant that I should try to get my work published. Against my better judgement, I forwarded the work to Austin Macauley Publishers. Here we are today with my debut book. A book written for the general public about the role of the anaesthetist in hospital medicine. The book discusses all that the patient will experience from admission to discharge. Sleeping with the Gasman is a very personal view based on my own observations, thoughts and experiences. Thought provoking for non-medics. It provides the public with a thorough insight into what they can expect from anaesthetists if having surgery. Insight breeds knowledge. Knowledge breeds confidence. Confidence gives empowerment. The book is written without any medical jargon.
Knowledge is itself power.
Sir Francis Bacon
The telephone which used to ring frequently at weekends slowly stopped ringing. These were people i had known for several years. It would be impossible to estimate the number of times we had been out for dinner or drinks. They were quite happy to call when they knew they would receive something in return. Once they realised that such a gesture was not going to be always possible, they moved to alternative company. Clearly I had misunderstood their motives. They were happy to be out with a doctor who could pay his way. When they discovered that it would no longer be possible, they found other equally pretentious acquaintances.
Eliminate these fake friends who seem real
when you have something
and disappear when you have nothing.
That was another harsh lesson learned. The term “friend “ is used by many as a false premise. It is difficult for them to develop normal friendships. They can only function at a superficial level. These people were seen through quickly. They may as well been a pane of glass.
We will discuss throughout this blog, how medics make their postgraduate career choices. Subsequently, move further to the anaesthetist – patient relationship. This will also provide insight to the process of anaesthesia. There will both humour and sad aspects discussed . That my friends is the nature of the game.
It is not enough to have a good mind;
The main thing is to use it well.
Sleeping with the Gasman
Thank you for reading this post