Anesthesia Flix Fix: Episode One


This is the inaugural entry in what I hope will be a recurring column here at Having a Gas Passing Gas.  My intent is not only to provide recommendations for how you should spend your time when your head’s not buried in a textbook or stressing about school or work or some other travesty that we call our personal lives.  But with this column, I also intend to make you realize that the world of anesthesia truly is all around us whether you like it or not…so why not take a moment to appreciate it.  To be clear…this is sort of a movie reviews column for movies that are anesthesia related, even if only tangentially.

So to kick things off, please turn your clocks and calendars back to the year 1977 and a then relatively unknown author named Robin Cook.  Those of you who recognize the timeframe and perhaps the author’s name know exactly what I am talking about and why I am talking about it.  And those of you who have no idea whatsoever, well, you need to get on board and order the book off Amazon or (for the Cliff’s Notes crowd) watch the movie (also available from Amazon).  Once you are done, you will understand how we all share a kinship for what we do.

The 1977 book (and 1978 Michael Crichton Hollywood adaptation) is of course “Coma.  I won’t give away any of the book’s/movie’s suspense for those of you who are planning to read or watch it, but suffice it to say that it shares many of the same underpinnings of other recent blockbuster movie franchises such as the Hostel film series.  It’s interesting to me how one premise can lead to such different creative results in Hollywood.  Regardless, I am not understating things when I say that “Coma” is the one movie that propelled my desire to go to medical school and eventually become an anesthesiologist.  Yes, I kid you not…I give it that much credit, even though I was all of 6 years old at the time.

So everybody go reread or rewatch “Coma” already.  The book, of course, will always be better than the movie, but what Hollywood excels at is bringing reality out of imagination.  And what the movie loses in adaptation, it gains in spades in the form of its cinemaphotography and pure post-modern/futuristic imagery.  The acting ain’t too shabby either…doctors and nurses really do talk in that affected tone of voice a lot (aka attitude).  And there’s Michael Douglas and a white chick with a foreign accent…something for everyone.

At this point we need to consider the anesthetic implications of this movie, and I’m just going to make a running list off the top of my head here so I don’t spoil the story for you folks out there who haven’t joined the fold.  Considering this book was written and given the Hollywood treatment in the late 1970’s, I would say one of the most significant contributions is the choice to cast a woman (the pretty one with the accent) for the lead role as a medical student who eventually saves the day.  Strictly  anesthetically-speaking, the movie touches on topics that would do any board examiner proud:  pulse oximetry, oxygen–hemoglobin dissociation curve, fail-safe mechanisms, key-index systems, hypoxia, shut-off valves, centralized vs local gas supply lines.  If oral board examiners ever lifted scenarios from Hollywood movies, “Coma” would be a prime suspect.

Please leave me comments on what you thought of this first installation of “Anesthesia Flix Fix“.  And if this made you go out and read the book or watch the movie, let me know what you thought of it!   Even better, if you’re anything like me and got inspired to go into anesthesia because of this movie, go ahead and give me a shout out!

Remember, anesthesia references are everywhere for everyone to see, but I know that only us anesthesia folks really get it.  May you sleep as deeply at night as your patients do by day.  Thanks for visiting and spread the word…tell all your friends to tell all their friends…

Anesthesia Flix Fix: Episode Two has now been published!

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