A WRITER who spent his career as an anaesthetist has published a book about his time in the hospital.

Keith Wilkinson, originally from Sacriston and now living in the Isle of Man, had a 37-year medical career.

But since retirement, he has written books, including a true crime book and his new offering, ‘If In Doubt, an anaesthetist’s story’.

He said: “I was brought up in Sacriston and went to the Deanery School in Chester-le-Street for eight years. I worked for three years at the Newcastle hospitals and retired last year after working thirty years in the Isle of Man.

“If I was never to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor, there was only ever one other second best for me; to become a barrister in criminal law.

“I’d been reading true crime books from the local library from the age of nine or ten, after my dad had read them.

“Like me, he had a life-long fascination for murder. In 2002 I wrote my own true crime book, ‘Manx Murders’: 21 true cases on the Isle of Man from 1850 to 2000.

“After exactly 30 years working on the island as a consultant anaesthetist, I decided that milestone was as good a time as ever to retire in 2020.

“I loved my job and I was worried though about the impending reality. Including medical school, two thirds of my life had been spent in medicine. Would I cope with suddenly not being a doctor, never anaesthetising another patient or looking after them in the intensive care unit?

“A consultant urologist colleague had his own book published about six months before my retirement, describing his awful experience as a whistleblower in the NHS.

“Some of his clinical anecdotes started me thinking. Should I try to write a book about my own career? As I eased into retirement I reasoned it would fill part of my time, and might help me in what I knew would be a difficult transition.

“I’d always felt that when I did eventually stop working as an anaesthetist it would have to be a clean break. As a way of drawing a line under it all I would tell my final patient they would be the last I would ever anaesthetise.

“I spent weeks thinking about how I could make my memoir book ‘different’ to others. My true crime book was easy to follow in that each chapter was a different case, unrelated to the rest. If possible, I wanted my memoir to follow that style again.

“With about three months to go before retirement I made a tentative start, beginning with my struggle with A-levels. In spite of dropping back a year, I was still unsuccessful in obtaining a place in medical school. After leaving school I’d worked as a nursing assistant in a home for people of all ages with learning difficulties before finally starting my medical studies in Liverpool in 1977.

“I describe the life-changing decision to apply for my first job as a doctor – a house officer post on the Isle of Man.

“Three months after starting that job I met my wife-to-be at a doctors’ party. We were married within eight months. My three daughters and seven grandchildren all still live close by us on the island. That year was also a pivotal one for me when my involvement with a tragic case in ICU convinced me that I was going to be an anaesthetist.

“I tried to have individual chapters covering topics which might be of interest to both lay readers and hospital staff. One of the hardest things for me has been trying to explain medical procedures in a way that lay people will understand. I want the medical explanations to be as easy as possible to digest for all readers.

“I hope I have overcome that potential obstacle. I asked many friends and family members to read parts of the book and let me know whether they felt it was understandable.

“Perhaps naively, I hoped my book might even inspire some studying at GCSE or A-Level to consider trying for medical school. Or maybe even tempt some junior doctors to think about a career in anaesthesia.

“Throughout the book I use real patients and scenarios, although all have been anonymised for obvious reasons. Another concern was someone might recognise one of the patients I describe. I have changed dates, the age and sex of the patient and other potentially identifying features of a particular case.

“In the book I intersperse real-life medical triumphs – and tragedies – taken from a career as a consultant anaesthetist that spanned nearly four decades. Exactly three of these decades took place in a small island hospital where I was in the unique position of having to know every area of anaesthetics and every ward.

“From the operating theatre to palliative care at the hospice. From the challenges of ICU and life-threatening major trauma, to the orthopaedic, gynaecology, paediatric and general surgery wards, I worked everywhere.

“One chapter describes mistakes I have made and other anaesthetists have made and how we learn from them. Another gives an account of my voluntary work, anaesthetising children for cleft lip and palate surgery three times in Ecuador and in The Philippines.

“In the final chapter I look back at the major changes I have seen in the speciality and my personal concerns for training of anaesthetists in the future.

“Apart from showing the reader what it is like to be an anaesthetist I hope my enthusiasm and love for the job comes across throughout the book. I feel very privileged to have been able to do the job I’ve done.”

All proceeds from the book are to be donated to the NSPCC. The book costs £7.99 and ebook £4.99, available on Amazon soon.