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Book Review

ASA Monitor Today

Connect with your fellow anesthesiologists on critical reading material.

2024 – June 4

2023 – February

A must-have for your summer reading list

June 4

The book “The Angel in My Pocket” was written by Sukey Forbes in 2014, published by Penguin books. The author describes in some detail the death of her 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte, on August 18, 2004 from a case of nonanesthesia-related MH. It is a true story. It took a long time to write the book because the event was so traumatic that the mother pursued a long course of treatment to deal with the emotional consequences.

The mother is not in the medical field, but the child’s first episode of nonanesthesia MH was managed in a nonhospital setting by a member of the family who is a pediatric anesthesiologist. The description of the symptoms and signs of the two events is written in nonmedical terms. Such a devastating event caused years of turmoil and distress for the author and the family. The recounting of the acute events describes the human side of an unusual presentation of a disorder usually expressed during anesthesia and usually successfully treated. Although there are a number of cases of “awake” MH in the medical literature, this one is different in my opinion. The verification of the underlying disorder is described in an investigation of a sample of muscle derived from the autopsy (Anesthesiology; 2011 115:938-45).

A significant part of the book is a description of the family background and Mrs. Forbes' search for a way to accept the tragedy and move on with her life. The main reason, I believe, for writing the book was to help others.

I only found out about the book a few months ago through a conversation with the pediatric anesthesiologist who was involved. There seems to be only a few print copies remaining, but audio versions are available as well as a version on Kindle.

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February 2023

Saving Grace: What Patients Teach Their Doctors About Life, Death and the Balance in Between

February 3

Saving GraceSaving Grace: What Patients Teach Their Doctors about Life, Death, and the Balance in Between was published January 10, 2023, by David Alfery, MD, a retired cardiac anesthesiologist in Nashville, TN.

According to Dr. Alfery, this is the first book ever written by an anesthesiologist that gives a realistic depiction of the “terror, anguish and joy” of working in the OR and ICU. Part of his reason for writing the book is to detail the reality of working (many hours!) in the specialty for anesthesiologists’ families.

The book is off to a successful start, with Henry Marsh, MD, author of the famed New York Times bestseller "Do No Harm," stating, “There are many memoirs written by doctors—this is certainly one of the most notable.” Dr. Alfery was invited to speak at Grand Rounds at the University of Tennessee Department of Anesthesiology, having been told by them that “this book should be required reading for all anesthesia residents.”

Dr. Alfery was Chief of Anesthesia, President of the Tennessee State Society of Anesthesiologists, and a founding member of Anesthesia Medical Group, one of the largest anesthesia practices in the U.S. For 20 years, he served as an Oral Examiner for the American Board of Anesthesiology, ending his tenure as a Senior Examiner. He holds an academic appointment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as Adjunct Associate Professor of Anesthesiology. While in practice, he participated in numerous medical missions with Operation Smile.

“Saving Grace” is not his first foray in writing. Dr. Alfery has authored ten chapters in medical textbooks and 41 peer-reviewed articles in anesthesia medical journals. He has invented several anesthesia devices that are sold worldwide and for which he has been awarded 17 U.S. and international patents.

The book is available on all retail platforms (including Audible with Dr. Alfery reading) by Wipf and Stock Publishers.

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