Counting Backwards: A Doctor’s Notes on Anesthesia by Henry Jay Przybylo, MD

(W.W. Norton, June 2017)

A moving exploration of the most common but mysterious corner of medicine—by an experienced anesthesiologist with a gift for narrative.

For many of the 40 million Americans who undergo anesthesia each year, it is the source of great fear and fascination. In Counting Backwards, Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo—an anthesiologist of more than thirty years experience—has written an unforgettable and deeply moving exploration of its daily dramas and fundamental mysteries. Przybylo has administered anesthesia more than 30,000 times in his career—to newborn babies, screaming toddlers and sullen teenagers, his own son, even to a gorilla. With compassion and candor, he weaves his experiences into intimate stories that explore the nature of consciousness, the politics of pain relief, and the wonder of modern medicine. Through its humane tales of mistakes and near-disasters, of profound grace and satisyfing success, Counting Backwards brings readers behind the curtain of one of the most fascinating but unexplored parts of the world of medicine.

Henry Jay Przybylo, MD, is an associate professor of anesthesiology at Northwestern University School of Medicine and an attending anesthesiologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. He also holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. He lives in Chicago.