Saturday, August 04, 2007
when i started surgery i had a foolproof plan. when the prof said something that i knew was wrong with everything in me, i would look him in the eyes and in a clear strong voice, without hesitation, i would say, "ja prof (yes prof)". that was until one day.
i did my morning round with the students as usual. nothing to write home about. i went up to the prof's office with the other registrars to hear the night's events as relayed by the guy on call. then the call came. one of my students called me directly to come and help with a resus. it was someone else's patient that had apparently crashed. my students happened to be there and started a resus. they called me. to be homest i wanted to tell them to call the guy whose patient it was, but they were my students, so i ran.
when i got there, it was a mess. they sort of had secured an airway and they were bagging. i tubed quickly and delegated someone to do cardiac massage. we went at it for some time with fair to good effect. at about that stage, the prof turned up. he checked out the situation and decided it was futile. he terminated the resus just like that and we all turned and walked away.
the one student that had initially started resussing the patient was visibly shaken. i could see her biting the tears back, those that she could. the rest rolled down her cheeks. i felt for her. i decided to warn the prof that she was a bit tender and needed softer treatment than his usual. what a mistake.
on the ward rounds, the student mannaged to compose herself by the second patient. i was so proud of her. it was then that the prof let his first firey arrow go. he asked her why she had been crying. it was so obvious that i cringed. not only had he been the one to terminate her first resus, thereby dooming it to failure and making her feel some level of responsibility fot the death of a person, but i had told him she was feeling tender so he knew bloody well why she had been crying. the student burst into tears again. the prof made some ill timed comment about living with it and turned around to move to the next patient. i wanted to hold her and tell her it would be ok. my job was to walk next to the prof. so that's what i did. i felt her hurt.
later on in the round, we got to a patient that was to be presented by that same student. she started. she was doing well. then the prof stopped her mid stride.
"did you listen to the heart?"
"did you look in the ears?"
"did you do a fundoscopy?" what the F??? i thought, but held my tongue.
"no prof." and then he let her have it. i phased out. i couldn't bare to listen to him rip her to pieces. he went on for about 5 minutes and she held her composure. but he just wouldn't stop. looking back i realise he was not going to stop until he had broken her, but at the time, stupidly, i hoped for mercy for her sake. she broke. she cried for the third time on one ward round. the prof turned and walked.
i turned and walked with the prof, but not before giving the student a quick squeeze of the arm in some sort of attempt to say 'it's ok' but it was far from ok.
as i walked with the prof, i felt physically sick. i wanted to say to him that it was cowardly to beat the crap out of an innocent girl. i wanted to tell him my respect for him had died, but i did not. i just walked in silence next to him.
but when i played the event back in my mind later i knew that i could no longer look into the prof's eyes when he was wrong and simply say 'ja prof'. and i no longer did.