Thursday, October 07, 2010

the silent treatment

misunderstandings are bound to happen. sometimes i just wish i could understand the misunderstandings

i generally got on well with the anaesthetists and this one was no exception, despite a slightly rocky beginning. in fact after that i actually looked forward to working with her. the atmosphere in theater would be light and jovial and we would exchange jokes and laughs. then a time passed when we just ended up not working together. the lists just happened to be dealt in that way. so when i saw her in the theater complex after this time i thought i should say hello. it seemed to polite thing to do.

she was chatting with one of her colleagues. i walked up and waited for a lull in their conversation. her colleague, also someone i knew well, turned to me and greeted me with a broad smile. we shook hands. then i turned to her to greet her. she turned around and walked away. i was quite surprised, but assumed she had something on her mind and let it slide.

the next time i saw her, once again i approached to greet her, but as soon as she saw me she made a speedy exit. i realised there was some or other problem that she had with me, but i didn't know what it could be. after that there were a few more similar incidents that left me in no doubt she didn't want to speak to me at all.

then we were allocated to each other for a list. she could not run from me. yet somehow she managed to avoid all human interaction with me for the duration of the list. she did her work and pretty much ignored me totally. by this time the situation was no more than an irritation to me. my feeling was that if she had something against me she should discuss it with me and if she didn't want to then i pretty much couldn't be bothered with her childish behaviour. i ended up ignoring her in equal measure.

then one of those cases that age both the surgeon and the anaesthetist came in. i was the surgeon on call and she was the anaesthetist on call. once again we were thrown together. but during these cases there has to be at least a little bit of contact between the cutter and the gasser, yet she still absolutely avoided speaking to me. while we were busy we were both so involved in our relevant roles in trying to keep the patient alive that the silence between us was at least not awkward. as it became clear that we were at least going to get the patient off the table and into icu i asked her a few questions pertaining to the stability of the patient, but i made sure i kept it business-like. she answered only as much as she was required to. it didn't bother me. the life of the patient was more important than whatever the misunderstanding she had with me.

when a patient is taken to icu while still ventilated, both the surgeon and the anaesthetist would accompany the patient together and this was no exception. and so it transpired that we ended up in the lift together with the patient. i looked at the anaesthetist. i could see her nerves were frayed. the case had been a nightmare and she had done well to keep the guy alive while i did my best to patch him up. i reflected that her efforts to ignore me must have made the whole experience even worse. i felt for her.

"well done. i really couldn't have done this without you excellent handling of the anaesthetic. thank you" i really meant it. despite whatever her problem with me was, she deserved a compliment for a job well done and i was not about to withhold it from her. that, to me, would be worse than what she was doing by ignoring me the way she was. i could see her shoulders drop as the pent up tension seeped out. she even smiled a bit, but still said nothing. it was ok. i didn't need her to.

some time after that we did a list together again and she started speaking to me. i involved myself in whatever conversation she initiated, but i remained cautious. after all i still had no idea what the episode of silence had been about and our relationship was pretty much destroyed, so i kept things fairly superficial. but i must admit i was glad that she had finally started getting over her offence. things went on pretty much like this for a while. we were civil with each other but we were not close by any stretch of the imagination.

then about a week later we ended up in theater together again. i was chatting merrily away with my assistant as is my habit during surgery and occasionally the anaesthetist would join in the conversation. things were almost back to normal. then i made one of my standard fairly weak bongi jokes. i can't seem to help myself. she turned to me.

"careful what you say, bongi, i have only just started speaking to you again after nearly a year. you don't want to mess it up." this was the first time she had acknowledged any such thing which could be seen as a breakthrough i suppose, but i was immediately annoyed. i felt that she shouldn't think her opinion of me would in any way affect who i was and how i interacted with people, especially when she thought she was punishing me with her silence. i was not impressed.

"yes i noticed something like that." i replied. "i still have no idea what all that was about."

"you know exactly what it was about." she said, almost accusingly.

"sorry to burst your pretty little bubble, but i have no idea what it was that you took offence at and quite frankly i don't really want to know."

fortunately after that she finished her specialisation and went on her way. i knew we would never work together again and, all things considered, it was probably for the best.


Joe said...

Why not just ask what's going on and talk it over, and avoid the year of resentment?

Bongi said...

joe, the way the rotation worked we only saw each other once every two weeks or so. also someone having something against me didn't bother me too much in the greater scheme of things (people attempting to bleed to death without permission rated higher).

in the end it was her problem and not mine. i was not bothered to sort it out. your question would be a good one for her though.

Nurse J said...

it is interesting that you did not want to know what the bruhaha was all about. curiosity alone is killing me......may be she has a blog the way, jelly tit story was cool.

Anonymous said...

hey guys, sorry to post a question totally out of context... can any of you tell me what is the procedure to become board certified in SA for a international graduate student..more exactly to get into the surgery residency?
thanks so much


Anonymous said...

Ah Bongi, No worries. She's forgot you exist, I am sure of that with a busy life also, as she's not bothered to sort it out either.


Jayne said...

Seems to me it was a 'womans thing'............*arms crossed across the chest when you ask what's wrong & you get the "nothing" answer, even though there was obviously an issue*

Bongi said...

nurse j, i was curious, but she clearly didn't want to discuss it so i left it.

monica, speak to the health professions council of south africa. also approach specific universities as far as getting a registrar post.

janyne, probably.

anne said...

I've never met an anesthesiologist who admits to liking surgeons. I think they are thrown out of the gas club for saying anything nice about the people on the other side of the draping. That was blatantly obvious in the anesthesiology class that I took not so long ago.
That said, my theory --and I have a few-- is that she fancied you. She perhaps thought that you had a thing going and you were oblivious (as men are wont to be) and the reality was painful once she worked it out. That is just a guess. An alternative theory would be that 2. she thinks you took her favorite laryngescope, 3. you took a 4x4 off her personal private cart, 4. you didn't ask nicely for relaxation so that you can get the patient's belly closed, or 5. you came within a few centimeters of her precious tube during an operation.
The possibilities are endless with anesthesiologists. I find stuff like that hard to let go. There is an anesthesiologist at the moment who hates me and I have no idea what I did to deserve it except that I am the weakest one in the room and he can pick on me with impunity. I am powerless to fight back without severely damaging my own career. That won't be for forever though, and I have pretty good memory for these kinds of things. I wish I could just forget, but there you go.

Joe said...

"people attempting to bleed to death without permission rated higher"

Hah. Good point.

V said...

Anaesthesiologists secretly like surgeons, a lot ...

VIVA TIVA said...

Anaesthesiologists secretly like surgeons, a lot ...

Anonymous said...

I really thought this story would end up with you two being married...:)

btw...if a surgeon and an anesthetist are married who decides what´s for dinner and how it´s cooked?

Calli Arcale said...

I had a friendship once that ended much like that -- except we never regained even that degree of being able to talk to one another. She had made it very clear she didn't want to tell me what had offended her so severely, and out of respect for her, I did not pursue the question. I've had many theories, but none ever seemed plausible -- except perhaps that I'd expressed discomfort at having lied on her behalf at her direct request. That was the only thing I could think of. Best friends one day, mortal enemies the next. Sometimes you never do find out what it was, and all you can do is move on.