As the patient lies on the examination table it seems as if everything is going as planned. General anesthesia has been administrated and the patient has lost all feeling in his or her body, the ability to remember has been knocked out, and the muscles have been paralyzed. Not until surgery is done however will the doctor know just how well the anesthesia worked on the patient.
Anesthesia awareness is a rare occurrence when the patient is given the drug, but it doesn’t completely take over their body.They lay paralyzed, able to recall the noises being made around them and the dialogue between the doctor and his or her colleagues. Also, in very rare cases, patients might even be able to feel the procedure happening.
“Every word is heard, every cut is felt,” says Robert Davis in an article in the USA Today newspaper. More than 40 million patients receive anesthesia each year in North America (Orser, Mazer, & Baker par. 1). It’s hard to say how many patients fall into the percentage of anesthesia awareness exactly due to the fact that not all of them will notify their doctor about their dilemma.
For rough numbers it is said that around one to four per thousand patients are found to have had some type of awareness during surgery (Anesthesia Awareness Registry sec. 5). Surgery is always risky.
Some surgeries like the caesarean section, cardiac surgery, and trauma surgery, (Koval) are more susceptible to anesthesia awareness. This is due to the fact that some procedures cannot tolerate a large amount of anesthetic in the patient’s body, but more is needed.In some cases it is necessary to give fewer drugs during anesthesia if there are problems or implications which can cause awareness (Anesthesia Awareness Registry sec.
4). In other rare instances, technical failure or human error may contribute to unexpected episodes of awareness (American Society of Anesthesiologist 2). The risk of awareness may be weighed against the risk of life-threatening complications. Sometimes certain medications are necessary, but they can make it difficult for the anesthetic provider to monitor the depth of anesthesia.Drugs affect people in different ways. Some people may need more anesthesia than others to stay asleep and unaware (Anesthesia Awareness Registry sec. 4) The patient must brief their anesthesiologist on their medical history, including drug use whether prescription or non-prescription and how much alcohol one consumes.
Also it is a must to clarify any problems with anesthesia one might have come across or any other medical problems issued to that patient (Heisler 5). The anesthesiologist is the one responsible for the amount of anesthesia his or her patient consumes.In the long run, it is better to take the time to discuss with an anesthesiologist than to just sign up for the surgery and hope all goes well. A movie written and directed by Joby Harold is centered on this very concept of anesthesia awareness. The main character, Clay Beresford, needs to have surgery in order to have a heart transplant. At first he didn’t know how fast the anesthetic would take over his body, but to his astonishment he realized it never fully did. The movie goes on by having his voice heard by the audience, but not by the doctors.After Carol Weihrer saw this movie she screamed because she too had been paralyzed and could feel and hear everything during her surgery.
Having this event take place in her own body made it very hard for her to watch someone else go through the same pain (Davis). Davis interviewed Diana Todd who awoke during hysterectomy surgery. “I was awake, aware, paralyzed, utterly terrified, unable to do anything about it no matter how hard I tried, and I wished I could die.
I remember thinking, ‘Take me now, please take me.’This was the most traumatizing experience of my life. It takes away your basic humanity. That kind of terror is cruel beyond description.
There is simply no way to adequately describe what it is like to have every single scrap of your own self-control stripped away. ” General anesthesia may seem like a walk in the park to some patients, but to the few that have witnessed first-hand what it feels like to be put under the knife it can be a traumatizing experience that sticks with them for a lifetime.Long-term effects that have been found in patients can be very psychological and can sometimes lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (Koval).
An anesthesia survivor wrote about her story on the experience project website describing her long- term effects of anesthesia awareness. “For about the first year, maybe year and a half after, I couldn’t sleep longer than 45 minutes, was chronically exhausted, constantly fearful, and plagued with flashbacks from the surgery (pebbles1982). ” She wrote, like many others did on the website, about how other survivors helped her on her way to recovery.Works Cited “Anesthetic Awareness Fact Sheet. ” Anesthetic Awareness of Nurse anesthetists .
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Davis, Robert. “Under the knife yet wide awake. ” USA Today 04 Dec. 2007, n. pag.
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