Waking Up During Surgery, Anesthetic Awareness

Book Tells Harrowing Account of Surviving Anesthetic Awareness

In 1990, Jeanette Liska lived through every surgical patient’s nightmare: As she lay paralyzed from the anesthetics she’d received, Liska found herself awake on the operating table with no way to communicate her horrifying situation to the doctors and nurses performing surgery on her.
What was worse, the pain medications she had received from her anesthesiologist were no longer working.
"Drowning in an ocean of searing agony, I sensed the skein of my entire life unraveling, thread by thread. But I was the only one who heard my own tortured screams—silent screams that reverberated again and again off the cold walls of my skull…" writes Liska in her new book titled Silenced Screams, Surviving Anesthetic Awareness During Surgery: A True-life Account.
For more than two hours, Liska endured terrible pain and fear. Silenced Screams is her personal account of how she survived the experience; how she put the pieces of her life back together following surgery despite frightful nightmares and other post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms; and how she made it her life’s work to assist other victims of anesthetic awareness.
"Writing about my experience with anesthetic awareness has allowed me to take a horrifying experience and affect the lives of others positively," said Liska. "It is my desire that through this book, medical and healthcare advancement on this subject will be made, and the public will become more knowledgeable."
As a result of her experience, Liska is dedicated to patient and healthcare provider education in the area of anesthetic awareness, with an emphasis on therapy and research. She holds a doctorate in divinity and a doctorate in pastoral psychology, and is the founder and president of AWARE (Awareness With Anesthesia Research Education).
Published by AANA Publishing, Inc. and the Council for Public Interest in Anesthesia (CPIA), the book includes two chapters that provide a technical overview of anesthetic awareness: "Anesthesia in the 21st Century: A Journey of Progress," and "Intraoperative Awareness: A Clinical Discussion for Providers and Patients." These chapters were contributed by two Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) who are past presidents of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA): Sandra Ouellette, CRNA, MEd, FAAN, and Richard Ouellette, CRNA, MEd.
The Ouellettes are well-known speakers on the topic of anesthetic awareness. Sandra has been a CRNA for 33 years and is director of the Anesthesia Program at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center/The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Winston-Salem, N.C. Richard, a CRNA for 33 years, is a staff anesthetist at Moses Cone Health System/Wesley Long Campus in Greensboro, N.C.
"The CPIA’s foremost mission for more than a decade has been to educate the general public, as well as anesthesia and other healthcare providers, about various issues relative to anesthesia care, including the possibility of anesthetic awareness," said Suzanne Brown, CRNA, BSN, former chairperson of the CPIA who was involved with the book project from the outset. "Although anesthesia today is safer than it has ever been, research efforts dedicated to continually improving patient monitoring and safety are ongoing."
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About the Council for Public Interest in Anesthesia (CPIA)
Founded by the AANA, the CPIA has monitored issues that affect the public interest in matters of nurse anesthesia practice since 1988. The council is a multidisciplinary body with public representation that is concerned with issues involving public safety in anesthesia care, and acts as an autonomous appellate body in the credentialing of nurse anesthetists and their educational programs.
About the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)
Founded in 1931 and located in Park Ridge, Ill., the AANA is the professional organization for more than 90 percent of the nation’s CRNAs. As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs administer 27 million anesthetics in the United States each year. CRNAs practice in every setting where anesthesia is available and are the sole anesthesia providers in more than two-thirds of all rural hospitals.