Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Secret Surgeons Won’t Tell You

“Surgery is a calculated risk.  The surgeon does the calculating, the patient takes the risk!”

    Some people, especially our non-surgeon colleagues, have this notion that all surgeons want is for patients to agree to undergo surgery.  Some would even advise the patients “Wag kayong papayag magpaopera.  Puro opera lang alam nyan.”(Don’t agree to undergo surgery.  All surgeons want is to do surgery.)

    Is this true? 

    Well, do you want to know a secret that most surgeons have? I’ll reveal it to you now. I know you’re the only one reading this blog so don’t tell anyone, ok?  Promise?

    When I was in training, I nicked an important blood vessel while trying to fix (we term that as “reducing”) the fracture.  The blood squirted up into the OR lights like a fountain during New Year’s eve. So, I knew I was in trouble, and more so my patient.  He might die if the bleeding didn’t stop. I heard medicine vials popping, done by the similarly panicked anesthesiologist. The patient needed more medications.  Standby blood transfusion was ordered. That’s when I started praying to every god in the universe. Jesus Christ. Allah. Buddha. The Chief Justice, Congressmen.   Even to Willie Revillame. (Help me Kuya Willie!).  Seriously, I had to ask help from my consultants. I crossed my fingers and toes. Luckily, lady luck smiled on me and the patient survived the surgery as if nothing happened during the OR.

    So yes, these once-in-a-blue moon complications do happen.  Even to the best of surgeons.  Throughout the world. One of our “jokes” in the orthopedic profession is if you haven’t broken a bone while trying to fix it, you are not an orthopedic surgeon.  I’m pretty sure similar things happen to all other medical specialists. But doctors and surgeons want to keep their complications secret.  Shhhhhhhh.

    Indeed, there are risks for undergoing surgery. Some types of surgeries have higher risks than others. But let me tell you this: Life is full of risks. Everytime you ride a plane, everytime you cross the street, even everytime you breathe, you have the risk of dying from air pollution, no matter how small. Three times a week, I risk passing by the killer highway of Quezon City (Commonwealth Ave) and had my share of near misses of death there.  We live in a world where zero risk does not exist.

    But those who dare take the risks are the ones who will most likely succeed.  Same in anyone’s career, business or relationships.

     If you just sit on your chair waiting for your guaranteed success, nothing will happen to you.

    To our happily married men out there, if you didn’t take the risk to ask your wife now to marry you, do you think you’ll be happily married with beautiful kids now? The way I am today? (ahem).

I know that we, surgeons, can’t demand that all of you undergo surgery. But we demand that all of you be given choices, with the risks and benefits of each choice explained and well understood by you and your family. If the benefits far outweigh the risks, then you should decide to proceed with the surgery.  After all, no surgeon, in his or her right mind, would want anything less than perfect outcome for his/her patients.  We did not spend the best 12-15 years of our lives training to be a specialist just to let our patients die during surgery.

But we are not God.  We are only His instruments to heal people. We may commit mistakes along the way. And we can only do as much.

What do you think?


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