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What Is General Anaesthetic Like, What If It Doesn’t Work?

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alyxowl | 21:13 Thu 21st Dec 2023 | Body & Soul
24 Answers

Has anyone had one? 
I have one booked it's a while off yet but I'm apprehensive as I tend to have abnormal reactions to things. 

I am very hyper alert, take hours to get to sleep. I'm also very strong willed and quite physically fit I can't imagine just being knocked out easily by some drug. 

What is it like and what if it doesn't work?



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“You will be well away with the fairies before your operation begins, trust me.”

If only.

I had a tonsillectomy when I was 21. A procedure not to be recommended when you are an adult, but I needed it. I had the knock out drops inserted into my arm and was immobilised within a few seconds. That’s when the trouble began. Although I was immobile I was still aware of what was happening around me. I could hear everything that was going on. Another symptom was that I could not feel myself breathing and thought I was not, which was extremely disturbing. Then I felt the mask being placed over my face. After a short period of that, it was removed and I was prepared to have the surgery. To remove tonsils, they place an extender (a bit like a miniature Acrow prop) in your mouth to jack it open and then raise you up by it so that your head is suspended above the operating table, with your head tilted backwards. You are then secured to a supporting frame. I sensed all that happening. I believed at that point I was going to have the surgery whilst still, effectively, awake. Then I heard somebody say that I was not “under”. The gas bottle had apparently run out. I heard the scrambling about to get  a replacement and heard it being connected up. More gas and thankfully I was sent under.

I mentioned this to the sister whilst I was in recovery. Of course my recollection was dismissed as “nonsense” and told that I must have been dreaming. The next day the surgeon did his rounds and checked on my progress (which was not very good, but that’s another story). I related my experience, said that I was told I was dreaming and I asked for his view. He agreed with everything I said and told me that my recollection was accurate, confirmed that the gas had indeed ran out and that I must have reacted oddly to the initial quick acting anaesthetic. I glanced at the sister who was accompanying him – the same sister who had dismissed my claims – and she turned her head away.

That experience has remained with me since then and is as vivid now as the day it occurred. It has left me with a morbid fear of general anaesthetic, one which thankfully I have not had to address up to now.

But don't worry. I've never heard of anybody before or since who has suffered similar problems. I’m sure you’ll be alright.

NJ   I had my tonsills taken  out at 2 1/2  in 1947 and anaesthetised by ether on cottonwood in a mask

For years afterwards the smell of ether remained in my mind as did the whole hospital experience.  Parents  could only visit at visiting time.  The good old days!


Ugh, ether.  I had that in 1948, not in hospital but in the doctor's surgery. That was indeed a horrid experience, nightmares while under and violent vomitting when recovering.  Glad they don't use that any more.

Finally we understand why NJ would love to see the NHS closed down.

Move on M'lud. You were very unlucky. My tonsillectomy and millions of others went perfectly.

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