THIS ORIGINAL ANESTHESIA CARTOON WAS PUBLISHED IN THE CALIFORNIA SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS BULLETIN, VOLUME 52, NUMBER 2, APRIL-JUNE 2003.
IS ANESTHESIA AN ART OR A SCIENCE? WAS NIETZSCHE CORRECT THAT ‘WHAT DOES NOT KILL ME MAKES ME STRONGER?”
In 2018, anesthesiologists consider surgeons our colleagues, and we seek and expect collegial relationships with them. I’ve heard surgeons say, “The patient is moving, dammit,” but the frequency of this sort of angry retort is less now than it was in the 1980s when I began my anesthesia career.
Do anesthesiologists have surgeries which last 10 hours? Yes, we do, and that’s a long time to remain vigilant.
It’s likely that tortured artists create an abundance of wonderful art, and it’s just as true that anesthesiologists hardened by stressful cases and challenging conditions become the most skilled anesthesiologists.
You won’t see us crying, as Dr. Baker is doing in panel 4, but the anesthesiologist’s rapid heart rate and the adrenaline rush in high pressure operating room situations accompany the growth of every anesthesiologist from inexperience trainee to seasoned professional.
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Published in September 2017: The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.
In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.
Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.
Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.
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