Anesthesia awareness is the phenomenon of being mentally alert (and terrified) while supposedly under full general anesthesia. The patient is paralyzed, unable to speak, and totally helpless to communicate his/her awareness. Actual cutting pain may or may not be present.
Anesthesia awareness continues to be reported between 100-200 times daily in the United States, in addition to an unknown number worldwide. Researchers believe that anesthesia awareness is under-reported by 50%-100% and occurs between 4-6 times more often in pediatric surgeries. Until the consistent use of every possible precaution (both human and equipment) to avoid awareness becomes routine, and such precautions are something of which a patient can be absolutely assured, this Campaign will not rest.
There are many thorough, vigilant, and compassionate anesthesia professionals, and for that we should all be grateful! No one enters the field of medicine to hurt people. What needs to be changed is the attitude about the possibility of awareness occurring with any patient, in believing and validating reports of patient awareness, and realizing the necessity for immediate treatment of the terror and mental sequelae of awareness.
Even more unrecognized is the extent and extremity of the devastating sequelae on victims. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in approximately 50% of awareness victims, and of that 50%, it is suspected that 80% may never get over the trauma. This Campaign wants to see prevention of, and compassionate and effective treatment for victims, and to bring about universal awareness of awareness!
While I am only a layperson, not a trained medical, mental health or legal professional, through my work with the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign, I think it fair to say that I am considered the lay expert in the area of Anesthesia Awareness through personally speaking by phone with over 2900 victims of awareness and (continuing to do so on a daily basis). Prior to this website containing much of the information available from the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign, over 10,000 packets of information were sent out free of charge. I have been privileged to have been interviewed in just about every major media, including television, cable, radio, newspapers, magazines, and professional journals, both in the US and internationally. (See "History of the A/A Campaign.")
In addition to being a media contact, a victim advocate and listener/ adviser, I have been invited to speak to medical professionals both nationally and internationally in annual meetings, Grand Rounds, and civic presentations. The Anesthesia Awareness Campaign holds, unquestionably, the largest database of awareness victims in the world — professional or lay.
Our goal is to be a touchstone of help and affirmation for victims of anesthesia awareness, a lightening rod into the anesthesia provider community, and a tool of education and empowerment to the public in general -- almost all of whom will have surgery at time or another!
I hope you will check back often to see what new information, publications, links, and pictures have been added. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Carol Weihrer, President and Founder (and webmaster!)
The Anesthesia Awareness Campaign is almost exclusively maintained on a day-to-day basis by its President and Founder, Carol Weihrer. The Anesthesia Awareness Campaign is run with no salaried personnel, including myself. As a non-profit organization, there is a Board of Directors that meets at least annually to discuss the progress and goals of the organization.
A non-profit patient advocacy organization.
About 3 months after my awareness experience, which occurred on January 24, 1998.
Call for supportive, knowledgeable, empathetic support.