"An obsessive, mystical, terrifying, and even phantasmagorical exploration of anesthesia’s shadowy terra incognita." —The New Yorker
Anesthetize: to render insensible
First there’s the injection, then the countdown—and next thing you know, you’re awake. Anesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness is the story of the time in between, an exploration of that most crucial and baffling gift of modern medicine: the disappearing act that enables us to undergo procedures that would otherwise be impossibly, often fatally, painful.
In the past 150 years, anesthesia has made surgical intervention routine, from open-heart surgery to the facelift. But how much do anesthesiologists really know about what happens when their patients go under? Can we hear and retain what’s going on? Is pain still pain if we don’t remember it? How does the unconscious mind deal with the body’s experience of being sliced open and ransacked—and how can we help ourselves through it all?
Kate Cole-Adams weaves her own personal experiences with surgery and its aftermath with the explorations and personal accounts of others, doctors and patients alike—accounts of people who wake under the knife, who experience traumatic reactions, dreams, hallucinations, and submerged memories—accounts that evoke and illuminate the provisional nature of the self.
Haunting, lyrical, sometimes shattering, Cole-Adams leavens science with personal experience, and brings an intensely human curiosity to the unknowable realm beyond consciousness.