Dr. Kiran Vyawahare

Consultant Anaesthesia and Pain
Past President

It was on 10th September 2018, that we reached Boston for the World Pain Congress. I was thrilled at the thought of presenting a paper at the World forum. The idea of experiencing the research and innovations at the International level was exhilarating. The Boston convention centre was enormous with a huge exhibit area. I felt like a miniscule in front of the plethora of the World class researchers. But as luck would have it, I was spotted and interviewed on Facebook live by the President of Fibromyalgia society, Ms. Jan Chambers as she found my research unique. My paper was on “Stellate ganglion block, an effective alternative for Primary focal hyperhidrosis” Overall, it was an out of the World experience for me!

Boston is a beautiful and well-planned city located along the Massachusetts bay in the U.S. We planned a visit to the Ether dome, the Holy pilgrimage for all anaesthesiologists. We took a metro ride to the downtown enjoying the skyscrapers lining the Boston skyline, along the way.

The Ether dome is situated in the Bulfinch building in Massachusetts General hospital [MGH], in Hartford, Connecticut. MGH was built in 1821 at the banks of the Charles river. The buildings here had red brick walls quite similar to the European architecture. The weather was cold for us, but pleasant for the natives. The snow fall starts from October and the weather becomes cold, chilling and formidable, I was told.
The Ether dome served as the operating room from 1821-1867. The dome is built in such a way, so as to maximise the entry of natural light and minimise the echo of screams of patients. It is a beautiful Amphitheatre and has now been converted into a museum for the general public.

In 1842, a surgeon from Georgia, Crawford Long had first used sulphuric ether but it was unpublished till 1849.

The historical moment occurred on 16th October 1846, when William Thomas Green Morton, a dentist, used ether to successfully anaesthetize a patient named Edward Gilbert Abott for the surgical removal of a vascular tumour from the neck. Later when he was asked about his experience, Abott described “it feels like my neck has just been scratched”

The surgeon Sir John Collins Warren turned to the public and exclaimed, “Gentlemen, this is no humbug!” referring to the unsuccessful use of nitrous oxide by Horace Wells, who was also a dentist in Hartford Connecticut. In Jan 1845, Wells had given a demonstration for painless tooth extraction but the patient cried in pain. Horace Wells suffered from a lot humiliation. He was imprisoned for throwing acid and later he committed suicide. What a tragic end to this discoverer of anaesthesia!

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Today, MGH is one of the largest super speciality hospital in Massachusetts. After walking for sometime through the hospital, we climbed up a staircase. As we went through a doorway, we came across a corridor where there was a display of images of Ether dome, ether bottle, first public demonstration, some quotes and writings. We entered the gallery through a small doorway. And lo! I saw the breathtaking view of the historical place in the history of anaesthesia. A Greek statue of Apollo Belvedere stood tall in one corner. He is known as the God of healing of disease. In the backdrop there was a beautiful painting of the moment of glory, surgery under way with the ether bottle in the hands of Morton!

There were chairs in the gallery for the audience and had a few chairs in the name of Father of modern medicine, W.T.G. Morton, Horace Wells and surgeon, Sir John Collins Warren. The surgical devices like ether bottle, scalpels, amputation sets, saws and surgical towels were also displayed.

My happiness knew no bounds as I tried to capture the moments, create memories and cherish them forever! It was indeed a memorable day for me and would always be etched down in my heart! Ether Dome should be on the bucket list of all anaesthesiologist!

Long live the Anaesthesiologist!
Long live ISA!