Sunday 23 March 2014
Death of a patient
During my training one of the surgeons I worked with told me that every surgeon has his own personal graveyard that he visits every night where he tours all his failures in his dreams. It seemed like an overly dramatic bit of histrionics, and I have to admit I chuckled softly to myself at the time. A few years later after I had finished my training, my graveyard started slowly filling, and I stopped laughing. Fortunately DocBastard Memorial Gardens is small and new gravestones are rarely added, but it is definitely there, and I visit often. Every tombstone I see is an opportunity to learn, to avoid making the same mistake twice.
Sadly, I added a new tombstone last night.
As certain people get older they may look like they are aging well, but underneath the surface there is skin that isn't as smooth and taut as it used to be, organs that aren't functioning as well. My patient was no different - she was not too old, but she was definitely starting to show her age. Sure she looked pretty good on the outside, but she had been getting slower and slower over the past few months. She had been in her usual good state of health until last night, when she suddenly got sick. It seemed that everything inside her had suddenly stopped working all at once. I took one look at her and knew immediately that something was seriously wrong, and she needed immediate surgery.
A few minutes later I opened her up, and what greeted me was confusing at best, and horrifying at worst. I've been inside many patients just like her, but somehow she was just different. Nothing was where it should have been, but I still couldn't immediately identify what was making her shut down. I started dissecting carefully, moving things around, taking things apart where I had to, removing other things that also obviously needed removing, trying to identify the problem. It was very delicate work, and I knew that one false move could spell the end.
And then it happened. One tiny movement that should have been more delicate than it was, wasn't. One slight misstep was all it took, and just like that it was all over. I suppose I could have tried to repair the damage, but it was obvious that even though the injury was tiny, it was also unfixable. I dropped my head, cursed silently under my breath, and closed up without another word. Nothing anyone could have said would have changed a damned thing.
I know I don't ever release patients' names, and I risk raising a few eyebrows doing this, but I'm going to make an exception in this case. I hope this can serve as a cautionary tale to any other surgeons (or anyone else, for that matter) who decide to be less careful than they should be.
RIP, iPhone 5. You will be forever in my personal graveyard.
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