This will remain between us….

I had completed my internship and was in a limbo…..What specialty should I choose? My personal favorite was Ob Gyn but it was very difficult to get registration….Surgery was my second choice but sinceOb Gyn was not feasible, I chose to register myself for Masters in Surgery…..

The first few weeks were very difficult…The work was very heavy and my registrars had a simple rule…Dump the chap in the deep end..He will either swim or drown…so there was very little guidance…

One post emergency, I was in the female ward, getting ready to do a basilic vein cut down in a patient of 100% burns…The cut down would be done by the bedside, the light for the procedure provided by the ward attendant with a open electrical bulb…Rajesh, my registrar was on his evening rounds…”If you have problems, call me. I am at the nurses desk writing up pre-op orders for tomorrow”

I infiltrated some local over the skin of the arm just above the elbow joint. Made a small transverse skin incision. I could see the basilic vein bulging into the wound…Went around it with a hemostat, pulled a stitch around it…Asked the nurse to prep a plastic catheter for insertion into the vein…When she was ready, I made an incision into the vein…

Suddenly, I found that my glasses were covered with fresh arterial blood….The “vein” was spurting fresh red blood furiously….It was obvious even to me that I had cut open the brachial artery…The nurse who was assisting me left my side and made a dash for the nursing station to inform Rajesh…

“Oh boy! have you really screwed up!” Rajesh was furious….He had every right to be…He had no experience in vascular surgery and we would have to transfer the patient to KEM Hospital which was around 10 miles away…”I don’t think you are cut out to be a surgeon.” Rajesh continued. “You should become a Dermatologist or something. Let me arrange for an ambulance to shift the patient to KEM. You will accompany the patient of course” Rajesh ran for the phone…I was almost in tears..

Suddenly a heavy hand fell on my shoulders. “What’s up, young man?” A gruff voice asked. I looked up to see the Prof dressed in a formal suit…I haltingly told him the screw up…”Hmm..We had better stop the bleeding shouldn’t we?” He said while taking off his coat and rolling up his sleeves. “Bulldog clamps, Georgie” he called out to the senior nurse…The battle axe of a nurse was Georgie! I never suspected…The nurse had already scrubbed up and opened a bundle of instruments. He applied the small bulldog clamps and closed the hole in the artery by two stitches. “Can you feel the radial pulse?” He asked me. I assured him that I could…He quickly identified the basilic vein, put in the cannula, closed the wound. “You will see me tomorrow after rounds” He said peeling off his gloves.” Put a dressing on the wound. Go to your room and have something to eat”…He went out…

“Boy! are you in for it tomorrow” Rajesh had appeared …”Old Pete has residents for breakfast..I suggest you go to your room and catch some shuteye. I will finish your work for you, It is the least one can do for a condemned sad sack”

I tossed and turned..sleep evaded me…I finally got up, pulled a sheet of paper and wrote out my resignation letter…I might as well go with my head high….

“Come in” growled the Prof when I knocked on his door…”Sit down. Coffee?” he poured out some for me. Wordlessly, I handed my resignation letter to him. He hummed under his breath while he read it. He looked up at me. I couldn’t meet his gaze..Then he did something that made my jaw drop. He tore my resignation letter into shreds and dropped it into the waste paper bin.

“Running away from failure is easy and a coward’s way. Learn from mistakes and strive to improve at all times. Identify the common bedside procedures that you are called upon to perform. Make a checklist of equipment and the steps of the procedure. The mistake you committed yesterday was in not palpating  the radial artery before making the cut into the ‘vein’.  Go back and think about it” He dismissed me.

As I was leaving the room he said “Young man, yesterday’s incidence should remain between the two of us..Do you agree?” I nodded wordlessly……

Author: drshirahatti

I am a surgeon, specializing in Gastrointestinal Surgery...I have headed the Departments of GI surgery, General Surgery and Medical Education.....I also was the Dean of two large government hospitals in Mumbai.....I like reading about cultures and like to travel....

3 thoughts on “This will remain between us….”

  1. I’d say a typical beginning for the budding surgeons, learning from one’s mistakes and becoming more proficient. The HoD displayed a true teacher and leader like qualities holding your hand when it was most needed. It’s what it made you to be later


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