As someone with a history of anaesthesia problems due to an unusually shaped airway, and a (very minor) operation due next month, I may seem the least likely candidate to enjoy a medical memoir by an anaesthesiologist just now.
However, when a friend who had recently undergone much more serious surgery told me the other day me about The Naked Surgeon by Samur Nashef, now on my to-read list, I remembered reading Breathing for Two a couple of years ago, and thought this would be a good time to revisit it.
First time around, I read it for a manuscript appraisal service, and I thought it would be interesting to come back to it as a casual reader rather than an assessor.
A Reassuring Read
I could have frightened myself to death with this book, which explains in fascinating but succinct detail, and in layman’s terms, the history of anaesthesia. This includes how the development of more sophisticated anaesthesia techniques and equipment enabled surgeons to undertake more complex and internal operations than before. Ppreviously they stuck pretty much to arms and legs.
Reassuringly, it also describes how modern innovation has made procedures less risky.Just 1 in 200,000 patiets is likely to die due to the anaesthetic. As Pascoe tells his patients on the day of their surgery, by far the most risky part of that day is driving to the hospital. So that’s good news then.
It was also moving to read how completely engaged and responsible Pascoe feels – way beyond just doing his job and following the Hippocratic oath – as he talks us through some of his riskiest case studies.
This book has given me a new respect for anaesthesiologists, too readily overlooked as they quietly get on with their work in the wings, without which no surgeons could do their work.
Knowledge is Power with Health Issues
It also gave me a renewed confidence about my op (a really trivial thing, so no sympathy, please!) and gave me the ability to use a couple of buzzwords (airway instead of throat, for example – did you spot me sneaking that in there at the top of this post?) when talking to my anaesthetist. I reckon this will likely make him more open with me, given that doctors generally tell you what they think you can deal with. In any medical procedure, for the patient, as well as the medic, knowledge is power, and the more I have of that, the better.
My only fault to find with the book is that it is way too short – I could have kept reading case after case after case, even if I never expected to set foot in an operating theatre again. I hope Wolf Pascoe writes more books in future, as I for one would love to spend more time in his company, via the pages of his books.