Dr Colin Black joined Ryan in studio to talk about life as a Paediatric Anaesthetist and of course – his new book, Gas Man. There was some concern that he may put the audience to sleep, but far from it… Dr Black explained how the job is logical, rational and instantly gratifying yet it wasn't his first choice subject. He did one year of Physiotherapy before deciding it wasn’t for him and switched to Medicine.
'I would encourage anyone filling in their CAO today, to put the things you like first and don’t be put off if you don’t enjoy your first year in university, there is always time to switch over to something else’.
After stumbling over the tongue twister anaesthesiology a few times, Ryan asked why did he make that decision. Dr Black explains:
‘..remember that boardgame Guess Who, everything is flicked up and ok I don’t like that, flip that one down, and flip that one down - and you’re left with what’s appealing in the end…’
After narrowing down his selection to Cardiology, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology, he decided the latter was for him. Dr Black explains that the discipline is very logical and appeals to those who like instant gratification. He also enjoys the extra skills you learn over and above what a general doctor would possess.
Don’t work with animals or children they say… and for good reason some would believe but not Dr Black who works in Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
‘It’s just so much fun working in a kids environment…. Half the job is trying to coax them into the anaesthetic room and actually permit you to put them to sleep. So it’s never boring’.
Contemplating the serious nature of putting a very sick child with poor prospects to sleep Ryan asks ‘Are you terrified?’
‘It can be terrifying but you have to rely on your experiences and rely on your training and know that you have all the skills that you require to do this operation and this anaesthetic.’
Dr Black explained that the vast majority of people get through their anaesthetic ok however it might be afterwards in ICU where things could deteriorate. Generally he would not be part of those kinds of difficult situations.
When a child is sick, your instinct it to shield and protect them. Ryan considers how difficult it must be to hand over that child to an unknown person and the weight of responsibility Dr Black must feel. He explains that often the tone of the interaction is set by the parents. It’s easier to anaesthetise a child whose parents are more relaxed as the child will take their lead from the parent:
‘Strangely sometimes the biggest and burliest men who you think are the ones who aren’t supposed to cry .. sometimes they cry the hardest’.
Several listeners text in their praise for Dr Black and other anaesthetists but the Gas Man explains that he’s only one part of the process and that a larger team than you might expect is required behind the scenes to allow him to do his job safely.
On a lighter note they talk about some of the tricks needed to put the children at ease in such a stressful environment:
‘…we tell them the mask is going to smell like fairies and cupcakes and strawberries but it just smells like plastic so I have few little sort of lip balm things that I can stick on the inside of the mask and they can choose the flavour as they go off to sleep.’
Dr Colin Black’s Book Gas Man is published by Harper Collins and available from all good book stores now.
You can hear the full interview here.