This morning I scheduled an upper GI endoscopy. For some reason, today the endoscope decided to be difficult in my hands. It twisted and turned and was a little out of control, causing me a lot of distress. Like most others professionals, as doctors, we also wish that our mornings start nicely and the first procedure goes well. That sets the tone for the day. Somehow that was not the case today. The more I tried to set it right, the more the scope decided to misbehave. It is almost as though on some days equipment senses the extent of our exasperation and tests our patience even more.
The endoscopy technician was intently watching me and the scope. We have worked together for more than a decade. Without saying a word, he gently turned the tube by a few degrees. And woah… suddenly the scope corrected course and was happily willing to navigate the unseen corridors of the GI tract. The procedure ended well. No one noticed. The technician and I went about our day as if nothing happened.
On my way back home, I sent a note of gratitude to this technician and thanked the almighty for all the blessings I have had throughout my career.
Back in 2003, when I got into my master’s, my first post was in the minor OT. As the name suggests, minor procedures are carried out in a minor OT. You are expected to suture wounds, remove cysts and lipomas, do dressings and debridements etc. However, usually, there is no one to teach you. You are thrown into the sea and expected to learn to swim by yourself. And believe me, “minor” procedures don’t appear to be so minor when you are in your first week of surgical training. Surgery cannot be learnt from books. In our days YouTube did not exist and the teachers were too busy with “major” procedures to pay any attention to the lowly first-year postgraduates in the neglected minor OT. So, who do you look up to? By God’s grace, our minor OT in charge was a very senior nurse. Ideally, she was supposed to only “assist” us in procedures, but it was she who not only taught me, but a whole generation of budding surgeons to hold the scalpel in their hands. I was posted there for 3 months and she taught me everything. She was my first teacher in surgery. Even today when I take skin sutures, I think of her glaring over me and reprimanding me if they are not neat enough.
In the last 2 decades, I have been fortunate to have so many such people in my life who have helped me on days when I have struggled and on days when I have not known what to do. They have been keen observant and have prevented many a complication from happening. They have been my teachers and have gone beyond their call of duty in the best interest of patients. At times I have felt that given a chance they would have been great doctors themselves. Many of them are highly skilled and experienced but fate did not allow them to reach their full potential. However, they still fulfil their purpose by helping doctors and patients alike. People only remember their doctors but these unseen and unsung sheroes and heroes make a hospital worth its while.
This is in gratitude to all those who silently contributed to my learning and helped me to become the surgeon that I am today.
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is a Laparoscopic & Bariatric Surgeon with experience of over 15 years. She is an alumnus of Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram. Incidentally, she was the first lady in more than 20 years to take up surgery as a specialization in her institute. Women in surgery constitute less than 5% of the total number of surgeons in India and have to face a lot of prejudices. However, she considers herself to be blessed to have been trained by the best teachers and most supportive colleagues… Read more