Thursday, October 23, 2008

If you don't...

Want to deal with post-op complications, then don't operate.

Drilled into me by my mentor, a wonderful Gyn-Onc. Brilliant surgeon, nice man, excellent with patients, and now my friend.

Had a bad one recently, ended up in ICU with double digits worth of blood products. Somehow managed to avoid DIC...

At least she left the hospital alive.

And it hurts us too. I hate when bad stuff happens. Surgeons have a rep for acting more than thinking, but we do think. I've reviewed over and over in my head what I did, what steps happened. Had some sleepless nights thinking. And this time, I can honestly say "bad luck." Aberrant anatomy in a procedure requiring a blind pass with a sharp object.

I was reviewing it with the chief of anesthesiology (who happened to be my gas-passer for that day) and he told me the same thing. And he complimented me for the quick action I took, getting vascular surgery in as fast as I recognized the problem. I was brooding and he basically slapped me out of it - "The denominator is fixed, and you are constantly increasing your numerator. Sooner or later something will happen. It's just a numbers game."

I understand that intellectually. Still doesn't make me feel better. I aim for perfection and this type of event hurts.

But I'm a doctor. And a surgeon. So I will have to get over it - or at least act like I'm over it - because I have other patients to care for. We have to take a deep breath and do it again, for the next patient. Because there is always a next patient. It's a strange sort of optimism.

1 comment:

Pandora said...

This post makes me recall the books by Atul Gawande. In some of them he talks about how medicine is a human profession and it is unlike any other in that we, as a public, demand perfection from our physicians even when they're in school. It goes on to talk about good doctors vs. good doctors gone bad and where the difference lies. One of the big red flags is when you stop caring that things go wrong. It's a good sign that you have trouble sleeping at night when catastrophic things happen.