My Belief in Poetic Anethesia
Written and photographed by Yao-Lin Yang
As the rest of the world falls asleep, we are still awake.
The surgery might last over twenty hours.
Each of us tacitly remained at our duties without the need of verbal reminder...
A tear in the vena cava is a nightmare for all anesthesiologists.
During a liver transplant,
the old liver needs to be removed from the inferior vena cava, which is the
biggest yet most fragile vein.
Any mistake can lead to a sudden burst of blood outflow impeding the
Thus, anesthesia for a liver transplant is the most time consuming,
risky and exhausting among all anesthetic tasks. It is like walking on a tight
rope – the doctor has to strike a perfect balance
between the patient’s consciousness and the correct dosage of anesthetics.
Otherwise, the patient will never regain consciousness.
After a whole day of operation on a liver transplant,
I feel a piece of my own liver had died along with it…
Against my parents’ wishes, I have chosen a thorny path filled with challenges,
yet I feel that was exactly what I was looking for.
Huiyin Lin (a contemporary Chinese poet, writer, architect and professor, 1904-
1955) mentioned in her “Literature Collection Volume” that one day during her
school days at Cambridge, classmate and fellow writer Zhimo Xu (1897 – 1931)
came to see her in a torrential rain and invited her to watch rainbows.
She asked, “How do you know there are rainbows when it still raining?”
He replied, “My belief in poetic life…”
Just like standing on the bridge during a heavy downpour
and waiting for the rainbow to appear…
It’s my life of being an anesthesiologist, as is my belief in poetic anethesia.
When I tried to climb BeeLu Mountain on an early freezing day in 2011, I came across a small muntjac deer that had fallen on the roadside approximately two miles into the wooded trail.
The little animal was in a coma with no pulse, no breath, and low body temperature. It appeared to me that it had been on the roadside for a while. The temperature on the mountain was close to freezing. According to medical records, people who drown have a chance to be revived even if the ambient temperature was very low.
With no other choice, I had to resort to “Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)” techniques and began to compress its chest. Without a tubing device, I could only give it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. However, it was difficult for me to blow into the trachea without air leaking from the mouth and nose.
After three hours and forty minutes, its body temperature continued to remain extremely low and there was still no pulse or blood pressure. I could only give up and ask the pathological doctor who came with me to declare the time of its death.
According to our observation, the “patient” did not have any obvious wounds, thus we thought it could have died from blood vessel contraction due to the low temperature in the environment. From the body’s stiffness, it should have been gone for more than twelve hours but the body remained intact because of the cold temperature. We thought about burying, perhaps with a tombstone that reads ACLS performed by Yao-Lin Yang?
About the Author
Yao-Lin Yang is a physician in the anesthetic department at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital. He is specialized in anesthesia for liver transplants and pain relief.
Dr. Yang believes the ultimate responsibility is to enable a complicated operation and allow the patients to regain their health. Despite his well-composed appearance, Yang has a very gentle heart. He is a passionate and keen poet. He would applaud his staff doctors for a group effort and cry for patients who could not last another day. Once, while mountain climbing one time he even performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a small muntjac deer.
Besides his medical profession, Dr. Yang immerses himself in playing the traditional instruments (Guqin), carving ancient Chinese characters, enjoying Chinese calligraphy and painting, photography, writing and mountain climbing.
He says, “I am either watching the sunrise at Seven-Star Lake, or counting the stars at night or admiring flowers in the suburbs.” To him, the natural beauty of Hualien is beyond words.