After 30 years as an anesthetist at Noble’s Hospital, many of us will have met Keith Wilkinson, perhaps without even knowing who he is. But now retired he is sharing his story of a remarkable career which details the trials and tribulations of working in a specialist field on a small island.
Titled ‘If In Doubt – An Anaesthetist’s Story’, the book is Keith’s second following the excellent true crime book ‘Manx Murders’ which he wrote in 2003.
Keith said that having written Manx Murders, he wanted to write another book about a man who had been on death row in America, but that book didn’t get published and he decided he wouldn’t be writing another. However, as he approached retirement last summer he began to think about writing again to, as he puts it, ‘give me something to do in retirement’. Around that time a consultant colleague had his book published and asked for Keith’s advice on how to publicise his book. After reading his colleague’s book, which included areas such as patient care, it got Keith thinking that he could write about his own experiences as a doctor and anaesthetist.
He said: ‘I started writing it last March and started showing it to some people in the hospital and my family and they said they liked it and it just carried on from there. I’ve spent about the last 17 months [writing the book]. I wanted to write about 70,000 to 75,000 words and I’ve gone from a little bit about my childhood and then my A-Levels, which for me were the hardest exams I ever took, staying on at school for an extra year, working for a year and then eventually getting into medical school. So I’ve written about three chapters on medical school training and how I came to be on the Isle of Man, why I decided to be an anaesthetist, going back to Liverpool, up to Newcastle and then back here for the last 30 years as a consultant.’
Without revealing any spoilers, the book isn’t always a happy read, Keith has included a chapter on mistakes, both those made by him and other colleagues and the work which goes into firstly preventing mistakes but then ensuring when they do happen, they don’t happen to someone else.
Being on the Island
‘When I’ve written about being on the island, you sometimes have to look after family members. You shouldn’t really do that, but you have to here and I’ve looked after my father-in-law, mother-in-law and I got involved when my mum and dad died in Durham and knowing more than my sister knew, I was saying I don’t want you to operate for these reasons, whereas my sister not knowing what I knew was pushing for it, so I’ve written a chapter on that. And then something awful almost happened to one of my daughters, so I’ve included that too.’
Working on the Isle of Man also means that while many anaesthetists, and indeed many other doctors, could find themselves pigeonholed in working in hospitals off island, here you can easily go from working with the island’s most elderly residents to the youngest and everyone in between in the space of a week, with each person bringing their own challenges and needs.
While many writers want to write either to make money or to supplement their income, all the proceeds from Keith’s book will be going to the NSPCC. He explained to Gef that while he wants to help children in the UK, his career has also taken him further abroad to work with charities to help children born with a cleft palate. Again without having to issue a spoiler warning, Keith got involved after seeing a feature when watching TV with his children in the 1990s and when an opportunity later came up to help with the surgeons who give up their time to help people from developing countries and poorer regions, he knew he had to get involved. Keith said this was probably the most rewarding work of his whole career. One big regret is that he didn’t do more.
As well as all of these chapters, the book also looks at medical surprises, difficult decisions in the Intensive Care Unit, the major changes in anaesthesia he’s seen during his long career and comparing that feeling on the last day to Keith’s first day working as a doctor, also at Noble’s, in 1982.
Hardback copies of the book will be available in the coming days from Bridge Bookshops in Port Erin and Ramsey and from Amazon in both hard copy and ebook form, priced £7.99 and £4.99 respectively. All profits from the books will be donated to the NSPCC. For more information and outlets, visit kwilkinsonbooks.com.