Counting Backwards: A Doctor's Notes on Anesthesia

Counting Backwards: A Doctor's Notes on Anesthesia

by Henry Jay Przybylo MD


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“An engaging and illuminating exploration of the invisible medical specialty that is anesthesia.… Counting Backwards pulls back the veil on the very act of being alive.” —Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear

For many of the 40 million Americans who undergo it each year, anesthesia is the source of great fear and fascination. In Counting Backwards, pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo delivers an unforgettable account of the procedure’s daily dramas and fundamental mysteries. Przybylo has administered anesthesia more than 30,000 times over his thirty-year career: on newborn babies, screaming toddlers, sullen teenagers, even a gorilla. Filled with intense moments of near-disaster, life-saving successes, and simple grace, Counting Backwards is for anyone curious about what happens after we lose consciousness.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393356427
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/20/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 168,334
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Henry Jay Przybylo, MD is an associate professor of anesthesiology at Northwestern University School of Medicine. He also holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College. He lives in Chicago.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 A Deep Sleep 1

Chapter 2 Command Center 16

Chapter 3 The Five A's 31

Chapter 4 Railroad Tracks 47

Chapter 5 Fear of the Mask 57

Chapter 6 Nothing by Mouth 81

Chapter 7 Heartbeats 97

Chapter 8 A Most Unusual Patient 115

Chapter 9 Errors Everlasting 132

Chapter 10 In Wait 149

Chapter 11 Paper Cranes 161

Chapter 12 A Brain Trapped in a Box 181

Chapter 13 See One, Do One, Teach One 191

Chapter 14 Reentry 211

Chapter 15 Safe Travels 219

Acknowledgments 229

A Note on Sources 231

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Counting Backwards: A Doctor's Notes on Anesthesia 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
giftedteacher1 More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book! It tells about medicine yet is written for non-medical people. The author explains what we know and what we have yet to learn about anesthesia, with just the right amount of medical description. I learned about the history of anesthesia and how it made modern surgery possible, and how the anesthesiologist is in charge of the operating room even more so than the surgeon. The author's personal dedication to being the best doctor possible and his care for his patients shines through in his descriptions of his interesting cases. His writing style is friendly and understandable; I think that he would be very interesting to sit and talk with. This book is excellent for anyone interested in medicine, science, or what happens when we undergo anesthesia. I think it will be great for students who are considering a career in medicine -- and may make some aspiring surgeons decide to become anesthesiologists instead!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A story with some interesting parts, an easy read.
Kerry Stanley More than 1 year ago
It would never occur to me to break the spine of a book on the subject of anesthesiology but when I heard Dr. Przybylo’s interview on NPR it was the humble man behind the story that intrigued me to read his book. The patient stories are richly woven and touching, the historical references from the rudimentary stage to the perfected practice of anesthesiology today both fascinating and chilling but his most unusual patient, a gorilla named Tabibu where he says “conquer my empathy-that hug-the-puppy desire” warmed my heart like no other. Like Terry Gross of NPR, I am old enough to remember the pungent, unpleasant and frightening smell of ether lingering in the public corridors of hospitals and beyond so my gratitude runs deep to those who have dedicated their lives to improving the quality of medicine for all living species, both great and small. It is also apparent the man behind the story is gifted in more ways than one but once you have read his book, the content of his character shines through every page. Counting Backwards is the reaffirming belief in all things possible and all things good and for me the story is a continuation of the NPR interview where I recognized a highly principled, deep-hearted and caring soul with a generous spirit who channeled his grieving through writing. I too would endure the intense pain of losing my spouse to illness after a 36-year marriage and although my personal story significantly differs, the enormity of our loss is undeniably similar and our inspiration to write one in the same. Kudos Dr. Przybylo and keep writing! K.L. Stanley, Baltimore
KWSkultetyLVT More than 1 year ago
Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC! There is nothing as fascinating as anesthesia. The very idea of being in a state where your insides could be cut, manipulated, and sewn back together is mind-blowing; yet this happens on a daily basis all over the world. COUNTING BACKWARDS is the personal account of a person with intimate knowledge and respect for this phenomenon. He shares stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly surgeries that he has overseen. From babies to gorillas, he has seen more than his share. The book is not just medical jargon; he recounts his interactions with patients and shares some of his most intimate thoughts with us. We learn what his routine is when setting up for a surgery – and why it never varies. We learn the history and development of anesthesia drugs – and why he creates a new plan for each patient. Dr Przybylo is a caring and meticulous man, one that I would want in the surgery suite with me. This memoir came about when he enrolled in the MFA program at Goucher College; a step that is admirable and daunting. His professors must have loved encouraging and developing his writing style, as the story flows as smoothly as isoflurane into the lungs. The good doctor draws from his years of experience as he discusses patients, medicine, and humanity. Each story has a moral of sorts – they don’t always have a happy ending – but there is always a lesson to be learned. It takes a special person to have the intelligence to understand the workings of anesthesia, while also possessing the compassion to care for people. The human race can be a frustrating and ugly bunch while sick and/or scared – I’ve been one of those people a few times. Dr Przybylo is kind enough, as well as strong enough, and that is what made this book stand out for me. There was just enough anesthetic detail and gore to keep me interested, while keeping the human condition firmly front and center. This book would be a wonderful addition to someone’s medical library.