Saturday, November 28, 2009
i recently read a post by a greatly respected blogger. she relayed a story about why someone chose primary care as a speciality, but it turned out to be more about why they didn't chose surgery (or why you should read the contents of anything you eat). i felt compelled to reply.
in all honesty there are many reasons i decided to specialise in surgery, not the least of which was that i wanted to be able to deal with pretty much everything. i also really enjoy operating. there is something magical about cutting a fellow human being open. intuitively it seems so wrong, and yet we do it and we do it for the good of the patient. it's truly mystical. but there was one incident that happened in my student days that clinched the deal.
i've never considered myself too bright (with the possible exception of two separate occasions). so exam times were always quite stressful for me. the finals of fifth year were no exception. so when i found myself waiting to be called in during the surgery practical finals my nerves were pretty frayed. the patient i had examined had a large smooth thyroid. clinically she didn't have hyperfunction, but that could be due to medical treatment. i had no blood results so i would have to go through all the causes and finally settle on what i thought was actually wrong with her. the prof was bound to grill me on my diagnosis and try to catch me out. at times like this your entire career feels as if it is the balance and may be lost to you for the slightest reason. as usual i wasn't feeling too bright. and to top it all, the student that had just come out had been grilled for not wearing his name tag. the prof had apparently almost gotten personal and totally rattled him. i had just lost my name tag the previous week. this did not bode well for me.
and then it happened. while i was sitting there waiting and trying to remember and sort out all the bits of information floating around in my exhausted, overly stressed brain, one of the senior consultants of internal medicine walked past. he saw me there with red, sleep deprived eyes and anxiety written all over my face and immediately realised i was just about to go in for a grilling by the surgeons. he gave his bit of advice.
"remember, when in doubt, cut it out." when in doubt, cut it out. when in doubt, cut it out. it went through my mind over and over. a sort of charge in, sword brandished where angels feared to tread. now that was simple and easy enough for even me to remember. right there i decided i could become a surgeon. i knew i had what it took to handle the petty onslaughts of the surgeons, so that didn't bother me too much, and now, intellectually i knew i would be able to remember the essence of surgery, when in doubt, cut it out.