BEMIDJI, Minn. — Ron Whitchurch put a lot of people to sleep in his half century as a certified registered nurse anesthetist. He’s hoping a book he wrote about his experiences keeps readers awake.
Whitchurch, 77, spent 16 of those 50 years working at Bemidji’s hospital, from 1971 until 1987. He finished his career in the Tampa, Fla., area, retiring in 2019, just one month shy of reaching 50 years as a CRNA.
He started writing his book, “50 Years in the OR: True Stories of Life, Loss, and Laughter While Giving Anesthesia,” last January and completed it in 11 months. It is available on Amazon in digital and paperback formats.
“I had it in the back of my mind because I’ve seen so many interesting cases, especially up in Bemidji,” Whitchurch said. “And some of them are just like looking at a train wreck. You can’t ever get it out of your mind. When I retired, my wife kept reminding me to write the book. I thought, ‘You know, I’ve got nothing else to do, I might as well do it.’ I have over 100 stories in the book. Some of them are tragic, some are poignant and some are just funny as hell.”
Well, they’re funny to some. Certainly not that amusing to the grandfather who got his pants caught in an industrial-style kitchen mixer.
Whitchurch chuckles when he tells the story. The man and his wife were taking care of their 3-year-old granddaughter. The mixer went on the fritz, so Grandpa took took it in the living room and had it in his lap as he was trying to fix it. The little girl walked past, found the cord and plugged it in. The mixer started up, got hold of the man’s pants in the crotch area, and kept going until it finally locked up.
“They brought that guy in with the mixer in his lap, just locked up tight,” Whitchurch said. “They called me and I could hear the guy wailing in the emergency room. We brought him to the OR. I put him to sleep on the cart. We had to call Roy Thompson, our maintenance guy, and come up with a bolt cutter. We cut those beaters off his pants. Things were all swollen up. Fortunately nothing was really damaged. He just needed to be iced and given antibiotics.”
Whitchurch said he ran into the grandfather some years later, and they had a good laugh about the incident.
“He said he told that story at a family gathering and his granddaughter was there,” Whitchurch said. “She had to leave the room, she was so embarrassed.”
That’s one of 112 stories the author shares in his book. Many of them are from his time in Bemidji.
“We got almost every kind of emergency and trauma imaginable, from shootings, stabbings, beatings, and car wrecks to appendicitis, ectopic pregnancies, bowel obstructions, fish hooks in various body parts, and fractures,” Whitchurch shared. “And, during deer hunting season in November, all the big-city hunters would converge on our north woods and fill the emergency room regularly with some of the most bizarre injuries imaginable.”