One of the most difficult things about becoming and being a doctor is the demands on your time. As a surgeon, sometimes you have to get up in the middle of the night to go sort out an emergency.
That has happened many many times in my career, but I’ll never forget a case I had right at the beginning of my career. I got a call from the hospital late at night and I had to leave my warm bed to go take care of business.
When I got to the hospital, I was greeted by the emergency doctor who showed me this x-ray:
Just kidding. He showed me this x-ray:
I rushed to the theatre reception area and found the patient inebriated (intoxicated) from drinking too much alcohol, but as far as his general condition, he was surprisingly stable and believe it or not the patient was conscious. He told me how his “friend” stabbed him in the face.
I ordered angiograms (special X-ray that shows the arteries in the body) to make sure that the knife did not transect the bog artery. I needed to know this because if the knife transected the bog artery, the patient could bleed to death if I removed the knife without first taking care of the artery.
This case was recorded in the British Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery, Click here to see a reference to it…
After more tests I prepared for surgery and rushed him to the operating theatre. The anesthetist administered a general anesthetic and the knife was removed uneventfully, although with some difficulty!
This was potentially a very dangerous surgery due to the risk of life threatening bleeding on removal of the blade.
Take a look at the x-ray above. Can you see that the knife has serrations (teeth)?
Do you also see how valuable modern technology is. Without the x-ray and angiograms, all I would have been able to see is the knife sticking out the patient’s face. I would not have the “inside information” which allowed me to save this man’s life.
A fair amount of the knowledge that you learn in medical school you will only need occasionally. One of the reasons medical professionals study so long and hard is because of the one time when an unusual or difficult case comes along.
Then you need to draw from the knowledge right at the back of your mind – the stuff you learned years before but have never used – to make life-saving decisions.
This patient fully recovered.
You have an exciting future ahead of you. Medical technology is advancing at a crazy pace and you will enjoy many benefits that 20th century doctors didn’t have access to.
Make sure this is the right career path for you, but once you do, study hard and make things happen. Most people expect things to happen for them or to them and they live “reactive” lives. Instead, make a decision to make things happen in your life.
If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Letters from the Doc and I will send you an email containing a link to an incredible e-book called “Which Branch of Medicine Is For Me?”. This free e-book, worth $9, explains hundreds of different medical career paths and which one would suite you best depending on what kind of personality you have. I highly recommend it.
All the best until next time.