As I said earlier, I owe everything to Dr Baliga. But for his help and insistence, I would not have become an anaesthetist in the first place or achieved whatever success that came my way. This is a debt of gratitude that I can never fully repay. But my personal view apart, it is a fact of life that Dr Baliga remains one of the greatest surgeons I have seen in action. He was essentially a slow but a very methodical surgeon and quite a few times he had to tackle problems which had been given up as impossible by others. Quite often, too, he had to salvage a patient from the complications of surgery done by others. Let me give an example or two.

I was anaesthetising a female patient who had been operated at Ahmedabad for appendicectomy. The patient had not been keeping well and was continuing to have a lot of problems. She decided to get Dr Baliga's opinion and was admitted to his nursing home. The surgeon who had operated at Ahmedabad was also asked by the patient to accompany her. In those days, it was fairly common for the relatives of patients to be present in the theatre and watch the operation. Dr Baliga washed up and also requested the surgeon from Ahmedabad to do likewise and assist him.

I anaesthetised the patient and Dr Baliga opened the abdomen. He put his hand in and abruptly stopped and asked the theatre nurse to give him a few sponges. He pushed in those sponges and before anybody could notice it, he removed them all very quickly. One of the sponges removed by Dr Baliga was the one which had been left behind in the abdomen by the Ahmedabad surgeon and which had caused the patient a lot of trouble. Nobody in the theatre realised what exactly had happened. But I had noticed what Dr Baliga had done and so had the surgeon from Ahmedabad who had gone white in his face. But Dr Baliga had deftly saved the situation showing great presence of mind and no one except we three were privy to the true state of affairs. Not a word was spoken about the whole episode. The patient was told that a few adhesions were removed and that she would be wholly restored to her health. That day I learnt a very valuable lesson. Dr Baliga could have made a song and dance about what he had seen and attempted one-upmanship to score a point against a professional colleague. But he did nothing of the kind. Very cleverly he saved his colleague's name and reputation. The latter was to remain grateful to Dr Baliga for all time.

Read more stories about Dr.A.V.Baliga:

The Guru Tradition - 4

The Guru Tradition - 5

The Guru Tradition - 6

The Guru Tradition - 7

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar