This website uses cookies to improve your experience.

Cookie policy

The day I decided surgery was for me…surgeons are not born, they are made.

Authors: Ridhi Surti Bsc, MRes MBChB; Graduate Entry Medical Student, The University of Leeds; Clinical Trials Assistant, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust; Leeds, United Kingdom; Linkedin: ridhi-surti-bbb2a625b

“Bleep the on-call neurosurgeon; tell him it’s an emergency,” said the nurse in A&E. It was 14th November 2007 at 6 am, but I remember it vividly like it was yesterday. My dad had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage and his chances of surviving were vanishingly low. They connected him to ten different tubes, from ventilators to ECG machines, but he remained unresponsive. I sat next to him and called out to him repeatedly, “Papa” with the hope that he may somehow hear me and respond, but he did not answer.

My mum held me outside the resuscitation room as I cried. I just wanted my dad to talk to me, hug me and tell me he would be fine. That is when the neurosurgeon, Mr Chumas, arrived. He explained that the bleeding had not ceased naturally, and immediate emergency surgery was required. My mum needed to consent to the procedure on my dad’s behalf. I was frightened and could not understand why they were seeking consent, but I remember the surgeon holding my hands and telling me, “Don’t worry, I’m going to try my best to save your dad.” I nodded, trusting in him, and hoping his words would come true. I waited patiently for the next 3 hours whilst the surgery took place, consoling my mum as she put on a brave face for me.

Fortunately, the team managed to insert a ventriculoperitoneal shunt that remains in my father’s brain today, aiding in draining the fluid and keeping him alive. Following the surgery, my father remained in the hospital for several weeks under the watchful eyes of the ever-observing staff. Throughout the next few months, I befriended the surgical doctors and nurses after witnessing the resilience and focus of the team when caring for my father’s complex needs. This experience opened my eyes to the lasting impact a surgeon can have on a vulnerable patient and emphasised the value of human life. When it was time for my father to return home, the nurse asked me what I wanted to be when I was older, to which my response was, “I want to be like Mr Chumas – I want to be a surgeon!”

Fast forward to today, I met Mr Chumas as a medical student. I recounted to him how my father was still so grateful to him for saving his life and how he had inspired me to pursue medicine. As a result, he invited me into his theatre to observe a neurosurgical procedure. I was awestruck by the skills and academic proficiency within the room. I told them that although I desired to be a surgeon, I did not think I was capable! To which Mr Chumas replied, “surgeons are not born… they are made.”

With that thought in mind, I have embarked upon the challenging journey to fulfil my lifelong ambition of becoming a surgeon.


Part of the charitable activity of the Foundation, 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.

Discover the Academy
Surgeon Training & Surgeons in Surgery