To Err is Human - 1



Way back in the twenties, I was aspiring to become a surgeon and had duly registered myself for the surgery course of Bombay University. After graduation, it was mandatory to do a three months' stint- the Incoming Period, as it was known in subjects allied to surgery like anaesthesiology, pathology, medicine etc., prior to the specialised training in my chosen field. Of the three months, I opted one month for anaesthesia posting because I thought that every surgeon should have a basic knowledge of this subject. During my one month stint in the Anaesthesia Department of the K.E.M Hospital, I had the pleasure of working under a very enterprising and dare-devil 'boss', my Registrar. During the first fifteen days he taught me how not to panic in an emergency. He also taught me the importance of brisk reflexes which a good anaesthetist must possess, as also the basics of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to be exercised during a cardiac arrest.

The Registrar was habituated to taking a very sumptuous Indian breakfast which he was unwilling to share with anyone. One day he asked me if I would like to conduct a case independently. The suggestion came out of the blue and I was quite taken aback. I had hardly been in the Department of Anaesthesiology a fortnight and that, too, on an incoming basis. I suppose the Registrar saw hesitation written all over my face, whereupon he took great pains to explain that what I would learn by accepting his offer would stand me in good stead in my future surgical practice. He even expressed willingness to let me share the breakfast he enjoyed every morning for the remaining fortnight. That was ample persuasion!

Over the next fifteen days, after an elaborate breakfast, I toiled the whole day conducting independently the routine as well as the emergency anaesthesia procedures. Did the breakfast contain some magic potion that kept me out of trouble? There was fear deep inside me on two counts: one, of being found out, in which case I would certainly have been rusticated. The other fear was of getting embroiled in a medico-legal hassle should an anaesthetic mishap occur.

But all went well. Importantly, I found this branch of study so fascinating that on completing my house post of six months' duration in surgery, I switched over my specialisation to anaesthesiology. I was make a career out of it. And what a rich streak of human experience and mine over the years!