The Best Things about Being a Surgeon II

We have already talked about some of the things that make surgery a great career in a previous post. One of the major things that people cite as being great about surgery is the impact that you have on patients. Here are some quotes about the difference that you can make as a surgeon:

“I think the most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing patients satisfied with their treatment; patients thanking you for what you have done for them. This is my job, this is what I do, but to actually get a patient say ‘thank you’, getting a thank you card or a present is something so rewarding and very touching to come from a patient because this is what we’re trained to do.”

“I think there are quite a few moments in neurosurgery when you can stand at the bedside of someone who has just woken up from a major brain tumour operation. I can remember a twelve year old boy, just recently, had gone to his grandfather’s funeral and actually become unconscious at that funeral having been unwell for a few weeks. He had a big brain tumour, lots of pressure in his head and his parents, as you might imagine, were terrified. They had been told all sorts of things that might happen. I came in and told them what I was going to do during the surgery and I told them there was a risk of death and there was a risk of major neurological damage – but I was able to stand at the bedside, not only just after he had woken up after his operation and he was fine and I could tell them that he was fine and that I got all of the tumour out, but actually a few days later I could tell them that it was a benign tumour and because I had gotten it all out on the first operation he was cured, the problem was over. So they had gone in the space of a week from thinking their child was going to die to thinking ‘oh, he’s going to go back to school in a couple of weeks and everything is going to be just fine’. And I remember the father standing next to the bed and just extending his hand to me. He didn’t even know how to really shake it because he was so overcome with emotion. … He was speechless and motionless in his gratitude.”

“One day a lad came in, nineteen, with retention of urine, which is very unusual. Usually people are sixty or seventy. And in fact he had a very rare tumour at the prostate and I found out the best person in paediatric urology surgery in England and he said ‘well, he’ll be dead in six month but this is what you do to operate’ and so on, I wrote to Philadelphia and to Toronto children’s hospitals and they wrote back and said ‘there is surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. If you use one of those three or two of those three you’ll have no survivors. But if you use all three according to our protocol you’ll get a survivor’. We did quite radical surgery on him, have him chemotherapy ourselves, he had radiotherapy then – and he lived into his 40s. He married, he had two children by AID, he had a wonderful life. And in the end, when he was dying in his 40s, in our hospital, I asked him ‘was it worth it?’ and he said ‘of course it was!’“

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