I knew with utmost certainty that I will not become a doctor; being a surgeon was out of the question. I was raised in a family of doctors, either the practising clinicians or aspiring ones. Coming from a typical Indian conservative family, there were only two career options available to choose from, either an engineer or a doctor. And I chose neither.
After finishing my 12th exam, I left home without informing my folks, to get enrolled in a college which teaches commerce. But then eventually, I succumbed to endless persuasion and emotional bantering by parents. Most of us who belong to this country would understand it. So, that’s how my journey began.
That should be a sufficient reason to be here.
Then why am I questioning myself yet again?
On certain occasions when I go out with my non-doctor friends this is the most common question asked.
What is it like to “pick up a knife and make an incision into living human flesh?”
And my answer almost never changes – The first few times when I held a scalpel , the hands quivered , the heart beat faster than a race car through the rib cage to come out, pupils dilate and so forth.
Why do I still want to remain a surgeon?
1.Is it the pleasure in diagnosing? Symptom analysis is like a puzzle. There are very few occasions when my physician friends would agree and this is one of them.Fitting in symptoms and signs to create a picture of the disease is fascinating and intellectually challenging.The only exception, there is no room for an error in this puzzle.
2. Or the satisfaction in successfully treating someone of all their ailments and even save some from death itself?
3. However, there is no denying the adrenaline rush through the veins on entering the surgical field, it is as much a battle field as it is a temple. There is nothing more perfect than a human body, the perfect machinery, and we are able to observe it in close proximity, and make few changes, converting a non functioning to a functioning part , getting rid of a disease and so on. Is the meditative part that is fascinating?
4. Then, there is the thankful gaze and blessings of the family and friends that follow. Could this be the reason?
5. Or the monetary gains?
6. Or the trust and honour? Influence and respect?
The world is not perfect, it’s chaotic, in an inevitable disarray , on a path to perpetual transition and medicine has not been exempted from it. And we as the pawns who are labelled as guardians /saviours of life are just as human and as flawed as any other.
We are distractible, weak, and given to our own concerns. Yet still, to live as a doctor is to live so that one’s life is bound up in others’ and in science and in the messy, complicated connection between the two .It is to live a life of responsibility.
Being a surgeon is not just about the surgery, it’s about investing endless hours of youth in books and seminars while our friends played and made merry. Burning the night lamp during internship, skipping the family weddings and outings.
Then the residency comes along, and our own personal hygiene and self-care was at stake. The journey does not end there, there is no time for dating, so marriage comes late unless the parents get involved, children even later.
Before operating on someone we must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living. They tell us in med school, we must remain detached with our patients. But, most of us have repeatedly failed at that task .
The relationship between me and surgery has been refined over the years and is yet not complete.
It is not just a job, a vocation or a means of earning ones living. It is more than that, and I am here to find that out.
Few days I find solace in the words of my favourite person.
Dr. Archa Prasad is a General surgeon and has completed her fellowship in advanced breast surgeries.