I have been very lucky in many ways. Not just for the family I have, but for being alive every day to watch my children grow and to hold my husband’s hand. That is due in a large part because of two very seasoned physician anesthesiologists. Dr. Grace Lim and Dr. Nicole Higgins. Three months postpartum, Dr. Lim asked if I would tell my story to their organization to help with their When Seconds Count campaign. I jumped at the chance. Here is our story.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists told me some astounding information when I first learned of their existence. They said, “most people do not know that anesthesiologists are actually doctors.” I knew they were physicians, but what I told them this month at their Legislative Conference, was that, and I am ashamed to admit it, I did not know they held my life in their hands. I just assumed my doctor was the quarterback and she would be in charge of my life. I am embarrassed I did not process the information they gave me in my five minutes I met them. I also told them, that needed to change. That if someone would have told me they were in charge of keeping me alive, I would have at least paid attention to their name and maybe bought them a cup of coffee.
For the most part, a physician anesthesiologist comes in, does their job and you recover. Never really knowing who took care of you. Nor caring. You only really care when there is a problem, so for the majority of people who come in and out of surgeries, it is a non-event. BUT in the off chance you need someone to take charge and save your life, your physician anesthesiologist takes over and does that job at lightening speed, because SECONDS do count. Their time with a patient is HIGHLY CONSEQUENTIAL. It is a difference between being alive or dead and I am acutely aware that I am alive today because of quick thinking doctors.
I was overwhelmed by the support and love shown to me at this conference. Not only is my story out there to use as an example of how to communicate how anesthesia saves lives, but I was able to prove that doctors are people too. I was a bit overwhelmed speaking in front of hundreds of MDs, congressmen and lobbyists. They are hard core about policies, how they get their message across to the public and how they are represented, especially on Capitol Hill. But by the end of my story, I received a standing ovation with tears in some of their eyes. I was awe struck. Here I was, nervous about speaking in front of them, but the advice given to me by one of their own said, “just speak from the heart and you will be fine.” I did and it was more than fine. Thank you Emil.
One of the Hot Topics the ASA was discussing at their conference was a possible change in the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). They are considering a new policy that would abandon their proven model of team-based anesthesia care where nurses and physicians work together and try to eliminate physician anesthesiologists from the
team. I am all for moving up in the ranks, lowering costs and running a business effectively. But when lives are at stake, it is an entirely different story. If the VA thinks that a nurse anesthetist could have acted in seconds, they are sorely mistaken. And if they think the elderly won’t have more issues to be concerned with under anesthesia, I think they need to think this one through a little bit more.
Physician anesthesiologists go to medical school to know a great deal about the body. They have to know a lot more than physicians who specialize in one aspect of the body. And when in a precarious position, you want someone who can get your heart started, your blood pumping and you breathing as quickly as possible.
Disaster happens in minutes. Seconds count.
If you are the patient and you SENSE something, you need to SAY something. And if that person who will be holding your life in their hands is not listening, you ask for someone else. And you have every right to do so.
Everyone kept thanking me at the ASA for being an advocate not just for patients but for what it is they do. Doctor after doctor told me about how my story affected them and how they are grateful to me. I was now the one with tears in my eyes saying “It is I, who wants to thank YOU. Because without your profession, I would not be standing here.”