The First Book about the Unsung Heroes of the Operating Room
Ron Whitchurch has the observation, wit and insight of a modern day Mark Twain and the eyebrows and mustache to match."
— Koco Eaton, MD, ABOS, Team Physician, Tampa Bay Rays
“An extraordinary book which brilliantly and compellingly conveys the day-to-day workings of the operating room.”
— Kevin M. Sweeney, MD, board-certified neurosurgeon, former chief of Neurosurgery of Mease hospitals in Dunedin and Clearwater, Florida
It’s a busy time for the anesthetist during surgery. Keeping a watchful eye on the patient’s vital signs and being prepared for any possibilities that might develop are an anesthetist’s prime focus. Each case is unique, whether it’s a scheduled surgery on a healthy patient, an emergency or a critical illness. They all require analytical judgments along with many skills to manage them.
Ron Whitchurch wrote this wildly entertaining book to offer a firsthand look at what happens after patients are anesthetized and what challenges the staff face in keeping them healthy and safe.
50 Years in the OR gives readers an intimate sense of what it’s like to be the only person in the OR who knows the heartbeat-to-heartbeat status of a surgical patient at any given moment.
The Back Booth
On a cold, snowy evening in January, as we were doing a late case, a call came into the operating room from the owner of a beer tavern downtown. He wondered if our surgeon could come by the bar when he was done working and check out a patron he was worried about. The surgeon said he’d be glad to as soon as he finished the case. I told him he wasn’t going to check somebody in a bar at this time of night without me, so after the case off we went. The tavern was in the middle of downtown Bemidji, and because of the weather and the hour, nobody was out on the streets. We walked into the place and were greeted by the owner from behind the bar. He gestured toward the back, where a row of booths stood, telling us that the fellow was in the last booth on the right. When we got there, we found a thin, older man sitting upright and leaning against the back of the booth and the wall. His arms were on the table, his eyes closed, his head was cocked over to the left and a half-full glass of beer sat in front of him. He was not breathing, his face was a deep grayish-purple and he was quite obviously dead. The doctor and I both felt for a carotid or radial pulse and, of course, there was none. When we returned to the owner and announced our findings, he slapped his hand on the bar and announced loudly, “I thought so. He hasn’t ordered a beer in over an hour.” I couldn’t stand it and burst out laughing.
One bitter-cold winter Wednesday morning, a call came into the OR that a car had just arrived in the ER with a woman in the back seat who was about to have a baby. I was working with our new lady gynecologist that day and, fortunately, we were between cases so she and I quickly rushed downstairs to the ER receiving entrance. There in the driveway was a dirty, beat-up, old four-door sedan that looked like it had been driven to the hospital through a hayfield. The driver, an unkempt young man, jumped out yelling, “Hurry, my wife’s having a baby!” We opened the back car door to the sound of a muffled groan, followed by the cry of a newborn. The doctor climbed into the car, exclaiming, “Oh, look at this beautiful little baby! What a good job you did, Mom!” The lady had pushed her baby out onto the filthy car seat which had pieces of straw lying here and there. I was with the ER nurse standing right by the open door and we noticed a hint of a barn odor coming out of the car. The doctor quickly clamped and cut the umbilical cord, then handed the baby boy out to the nurse who wrapped him in a couple of blankets and rushed him inside. With the help of two orderlies, we got Mom onto an ER cart and took her inside too. The baby went upstairs to be cleaned up in a special section of the nursery, called the “suspect nursery,” dedicated to babies born outside the hospital. Mom stayed in the ER until our doctor got the placenta delivered, then she went upstairs to be cleaned up too, since her appearance rivaled that of her husband’s. There are a lot of small rural towns in the large area surrounding Bemidji, some with a population only in the double digits. These folks had come from one of them and were part of a commune living out in the country. Mother and baby did fine and were discharged after a few days. They had one unusual request, though: They wanted to take the baby’s placenta home with them and eat it. According to what they told the nurses, it’s a very healthy way to bond with your newborn. There are even cookbooks for placentas.
Ronald Whitchurch. 50 Years in the OR: True Stories of Life, Loss, and Laughter While Giving Anesthesia
This book is an account of over thirty years in the medical field. Some stories so unbelievable that you can only think it must be true. It ranges from comical too scary to life changing moments throughout the author’s career.
With the stories you notice the changes in the medical field, how procedures have changed and become modernized. No doubt the author led an interesting life.
I found it refreshing and insightful. It gives you glimpse in this field you only see or read from a doctor’s perspective. This field though gives you new light on how far the medical profession has come and how people perceive it.
It is written with clear knowledge and understanding while the author’s writing is truthful and witty at the same time. Sharing firsthand experiences after his diagnose of multiple myeloma was truly touching. It invokes so much empathy within. God always knows what we need and when. This can be seen till the end.
I want to congratulate the author with the writing of this book. This is truly a wonderful milestone he can be proud off. May you experience continuous health in your golden years. You are blessed and highly favoured.
Review From the OnlineBookClub.org
How would it feel to be a passive
observer in the operating room? What if the observation lasted fifty years and
involved much more than just the surgical procedures and anesthesia? 50
Years in the OR: True Stories of Life, Loss, and Laughter While Giving
Anesthesia was authored by Ron Whitchurch. It is 332 pages long and was
published by Loon Lake Press in 2020. The book is composed of 112 stories on
different procedures and their outcomes and others outside the operating room.
The author's work and extensive experience in anesthesia spanning over fifty
years are evident in the book. His storytelling prowess is topnotch as well,
and in this way, all readers will enjoy poring over the stories.
The introduction contained many impressive praises for the book, and my expectations were raised to a new high. I was not quite sure whether they would be met upon reading it, though. I am delighted to record that every expectation was surpassed. The author used funny titles and included humorous conversations without reducing the gravity of medical procedures. The stories reveal both pleasant and ugly experiences during Ron's practice. They describe both moments of elation following successful operations and full recoveries and the harrowing ones after the loss of a patient.
I had an opportunity to read firsthand information about the common and the strange both inside and outside the operating rooms. I enjoyed devouring the book for many reasons. The stories were organized in a way that I did not get bored following them. An impenetrable cloud of gloom would be hanging over the operating room at one time, and, before long, I would be smiling. Further, a heavy dose of humor in some stories left me chuckling. True to the commendations, the book was captivating and informative.
Why should you consider reading this book? All nurse anesthetists and those interested in the field will benefit immensely from the experience of the author. They will be introduced to many inevitable circumstances and appreciate how creativity could be applied. Ron's treatment of every patient as a distinct individual with genuine compassion will undoubtedly inspire many. For readers not in the medical field, this book will cause you to appreciate the roles the medical personnel play. There are valuable lessons on workplace injuries, alcoholism, and hygiene as well.
There is nothing I disliked about the book. The language utilized was straightforward, and complex terms and procedures were described in simple words to aid comprehensibility. Editing was also professionally done. The most unforgettable incident was where the team recognized what the problem was and knew how to treat it but were prevented from doing so. The feeling of powerlessness was almost tangible, and I could not stop wondering how the doctors and nurses were feeling.
I heartily rate the book four out of four stars. I recommend it to all health workers, especially nurses, and readers interested in operating room stories. It is unsuitable for young readers and anyone averse to gory scenes. The book also contains a few expletives.
Ron is the author of the new wildly entertaining book, 50 Years in the OR: True Stories of Life, Loss, and laughter while giving anesthesia.
Learn more about Ron, this book and some of the amazing people he’s worked with
that have endorsed it at www.50yearsintheor.com.
Ron Whitchurch earned his R.N. from Abbott Hospital. He graduated from the Minneapolis School of Anesthesia and began working as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in 1971. He enjoyed a long, eventful career in the OR before he retired in 2018 at age 76. Ron and his wife, Lonni, live in Florida.