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The Airway Letters

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Advice to an aspiring airway learner

About the letters

Not long ago I said farewell to one of my mentors in emergency medicine. A few weeks later, I was startled to receive a package at my door from the same recently departed friend. Inside was a small bundle of letters. Before I ever knew her, she had written a series of letters to her mentor, John Browning, detailing her struggles with learning emergency airway skills. Her mentor had diligently responded to each. It seems my old friend had herself once been a novice (although I hardly think it possible) and that she had detailed her experience in a series of letters.

They arrived with a simple note saying, “the advice in these letters has guided me through all of my years as a physician, and I hope they give you the same inspiration and comfort they did to me. Please share them as you see fit.”

So there they were, all those letters, arriving on my doorstep like a time-traveller appearing from out of history itself. Needless to say they were written well before the internet, blogs or social media, and as I started to read them I realized that the lessons they shared had stood the test of time.

Even more important to my mind, it seemed to me that my old friend had one more lesson she wanted to impart: the importance of opening your heart to others as you learn; of sharing your successes and failures, and the powerful impact seeking more personal connections in our learning can have on our growth.

Here, in the simple letter, a world full of encouragement and ideas, and in between the words, a kind of strange antidote for the soul. A soothing balm to help us in our age of social distance and isolation. A reminder that even though distant, we can and should remain connected. It is with others we find the inspiration to continue our journey of lifelong learning. It is how we help each other grow. It is how we all become better at what we do as physicians. Caring for others.

After much thought, I decided to photocopy each of the letters and add them into the curriculum here. Each link will take you to a letter and all the related material on each topic. Doing this somehow makes me feel like my old mentor is here beside me, teaching and paying it forward as she always did. I hope you enjoy reading the letters as much as I have. Who knows, perhaps after reading them, you might be inspired to buy some stamps and write a few of your own.

  • Jonathan St George MD
  • Creator of the Protected Airway Course

Letter #1 How we learn emergency airway matters

Letter #6 The three steps of laryngoscopy

More letters coming soon once I get my photocopy time machine from 1974 repaired…

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