27 November 2023
Something interesting I learnt in the operating room…even doctors are humans.
14 September 2023
As I bid farewell to my educational days and finally was close to practising what I loved, I had the opportunity to observe surgery up close. It was one of the days that truly made me reflect on being a surgeon. And things never remained the same after that.
I vividly remember paving my way to the Operating Room after following up on a few blood works for a patient, but I noticed some differences. The changing room was overcrowded, and the halls filled with more scrubs than I expected. I tiptoed my way into the OR to see a surprisingly large crowd. I saw professors and residents huddled in the gallery and cameras set with larger screens. I asked the senior beside me about the occasion, and he told me a laparoscopic splenectomy was being done by the best surgeon he knew. I fixed my eyes on the screen to watch every detail. Time flew by, and the organised chaos slowly turned into music at its finest. From the initial incision to isolating the viscera, it seemed that Mozart was in his element navigating planes of dissection. The surgeon beamed under his mask, and with his assistant, they turned science into art. The spectators seemed in awe of what they were witnessing.
Suddenly, the anaesthetist announced, “blood pressure dropping”, and all the chatter ceased. The room was utterly silent for the next few minutes as the surgeon fought to control the bleeding using clips and packs. A clip fell off after his first attempt to ligate the hilar vessel. He managed to get it to the desired location on his second attempt but had significant blood loss by that time.
Situations like this are not uncommon for a surgeon and he seemed fully efficient in reacting to them. But what I saw next left me baffled… The principal surgeon walked towards the single source of natural light the OR offered. It was a small window right next to the aseptic tray for the laparoscopic instruments. He folded his hands and just stared blankly into nature amidst the deafening silence. He stayed there for 2-3 mins before coming back and continuing. I turned to my attending and asked what I witnessed.
What he said will stick with me forever: “Even doctors are humans”, and he looked straight at me. Later, I got to know that the surgeon nicked a blood vessel during the surgery and that shifted his focus so much that he was unable to pick the pin that he had misfired and spent minutes unable to retrieve it.
Although surgery is a craft at its finest, we sometimes fail to look into the human behind those confident eyes. In my opinion, he was a brilliant surgeon that day, but what he did transformed his brilliance into greatness. To have the humility to own up to a basic error is what makes us, as a surgeon, one of the best, and to this date, it is truly what I want to aspire to as I grow.
Part of the charitable activity of the Society, BJS Academy is an online educational resource for current and future surgeons.
The Academy is comprised of five distinct sections: Continuing surgical education, Young BJS, Cutting edge, Scientific surgery and Surgical news. Although the majority of this is open access, additional content is available to BJS subscribers and strategic partners.