"Measure twice. Cut once."This quote is actually a basic tenet of woodworking rather than surgery, but the meaning still translates to surgery (and medicine in general) very well. When you're cutting a piece of wood, you are supposed to make a measurement, mark the piece of wood, and then recheck the measurement before powering up the tool and doing something irreversible. If you're about to do something that you absolutely CAN'T take back, you'd better make DAMNED SURE you do it right. So check your work, then double check it, and only then should you cut.
Though this blog seems to be mostly about my own self-glorification (not really), I'm sure it will come as a great shock to many of you that I, DocBastard, am not perfect. No, no really, it's true. Please try to contain your surprise. Damn it, contain yourself! I am actually not immune to stupid moments, and I may have erred ever-so-slightly once or twice.
(By that I mean that I have had more than my fair share of moments where I've hit myself in the head, called myself an idiot, and wished there was a big pile of dirty glass shards that I could jump into for whatever my most recent egregious fuckup was.)
So of course since this blog is dedicated to exploiting my greatness (not really), there's no way in hell that I would actually reveal any of these "epic fails" (as the kids say), right?
When I was still in training doing a rotation in pediatric surgery, I was given the distinct honour of informing a 6-year old boy named Thomas (not his real name) and his parents that he did not, in fact, have Crohn's Disease, which is a terrible, incurable disease where the body attacks its own digestive system. The tests had all been done, and they were definitively normal. Wonderful news! I marched happily into the room and gave them the good news, much to the delight of the little boy and his parents. The three of them cried with joy, and I got to witness the sheer happiness on their faces.
And then Thomas and his parents walked into the room.
I had mistakenly given the news to his roommate Isaac (also not his real name). Sure, I had the right room, but I had not thought to double check the bed number in the room, nor had I made sure that the little boy I was talking to was actually Thomas. I immediately looked for a pit of sand in which to bury my head, but finding none I simply apologised profusely. I suppose they saw the look of sheer terror (and idiocy) on my face, because fortunately Isaac's parents were very understanding of my little flub. Before I got the chance, Isaac happily told Thomas the good news, and both of them started jumping on their beds, giggling like tiny mad scientists. I think that was a better ending than mine would have been anyway.
Ever since then, I always verify the patient's name when I enter a room. It certainly wasn't my first mistake, nor was it my last, but it was definitely one of my worst. I'm sure I've repressed some other momentary lapses in sanity, and as the horrid memories resurface, I'll be sure to expose some of my other sins.
And before you ask, no I've never cut off the wrong leg or removed the wrong kidney. Shame on you for even thinking it.
EDIT: In case you're wondering, this isn't a repeat of a post from a few weeks ago. I had written it then but hadn't posted it until a few days ago, but it was posted on the day I wrote it instead of the day I posted it. I just deleted it and reposted it today.