Wednesday 3 April 2013


People can be inspired by the strangest things.  Artists can be inspired by a beautiful woman, a screenwriter may be inspired by war, a musician may be inspired by a particularly nice ass.  I know of many people in the medical profession who were inspired to go into the field because of something that happened in their own lives.  People with diabetes pursuing diabetes research or becoming an endocrinologist, people with severe allergies doing immunology research, people who had surgery at a young age going into surgery.  I was inspired to go into surgery by my father who was also a surgeon.

Little did I know that *I* could be an inspiration, even from afar.

Mr. R (not his real name) wrote me a few days ago, and after reading his letter, I asked if I could share it.  Fortunately he agreed.

Hi DocBastard.  I have been debating writing this post for quite some time. Let me start by introducing myself.  My name is [name redacted] and I'm 20 years old from [location also redacted] but born in raised in [damn it, stop making me redact things].  I have been beset by health care problems my whole life.  It started at 3 months old with tracheomalacia [a congenital weakness of the windpipe] and lived with a tracheostomy until the age of three.  In addition to this I suffered heart failure until roughly the age of six.  From approximately the age of 7 to 14 I broke eight bones and had at that point fourteen surgeries.  For a brief three years I had no issues to speak of.  Then on February 22, 2011 my world was turned upside down.  I had just finished working out and wasn't feeling too good, and I noticed that my arm had gone numb and I couldn't speak. Five hours later I was informed that, even though I was only 18 years old, I had suffered a transient ischemic attack [basically a mini-stroke] due to an atrial septal defect [a hole in the heart].  The news turned my world around - I had to turn down over $100,000 in scholarships.  I went through depression...and then I found your blog.  (Now I know what you're going to say - "Thank god, he's finally getting to the point!")   
I want to thank you for providing me a source of relief when I was stopping myself to pieces.  Thank you for reminding me that even though I've had it rough, it could always be worse.  Thank you DocBastard, for even though you didn't know it you convinced me to apply to medical school so I can help others like the wonderful doctors in my life have helped me.
I am profoundly honoured that my writing could inspire someone to pursue medicine, though I don't think I can claim full credit.  I have a distinct feeling that Mr. R's experiences had a lot to do with it too.

There are many great reasons to go into medicine - doctors are generally very well respected, we are among the most highly-educated people, and we get to cure diseases and help people get better.  There are even better reasons to go into surgery - mainly, I get to fix things instantly with no waiting, and I get to save lives, often in dramatic fashion.  So it always worries me that young people would look at a potential career in surgery and see only the bad things.  Sure it's a difficult lifestyle with long hours, a lot of time away from home and family, long and difficult operations, we are often underpaid...wait, why do I still do this to myself?


  1. I'm fascinated by everything orthopedic wise. Like, I think the picture of Kevin Ware's leg is really cool. But I'm too afraid to be a surgeon because I know I'd constantly worry about all my patients. I'm also emetophobic, so I don't think I could deal with half the stuff I would be required to deal with!

  2. From reading this I'd assume that the young gentleman involved is suffering with a Rheumatological Heritable Connective Tissue disorder such as Marfan Syndrome or Ehler's Danlos Syndrome. I am an osteopath about to complete a critical literature review of the manual therapy management of the complications of these conditions. If he were interested in reading this so he could tailor any therapeutics more adequately to his condition, I'd be very happy to pass my work on.


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