Friday, November 6, 2009

Death of a surgeon

There is a shrine in one of the operating rooms at my surgery center. It is dedicated to a young surgeon who died a few years ago. The shrine consists of his framed picture and a mix music CD he liked to play while operating. He always liked to finish his cases playing Quiet Riot's "We're not gonna take it."

Working in that room the other day, I'm reminded of one of the most surreal moments in my life. I was on call on a Saturday night. That surgeon books a laparoscopic appendectomy to start around midnight. He is very nice and well liked by all the staff. He comes in cheerful as usual. The case goes well without any drama. He leaves the operating room around 2:00 AM, saying thanks and goodnight to everybody. He looked the picture of health and good cheer.

Come Monday morning he doesn't show up to the operating room, which is extremely unusual for him. The OR pages him and calls his cell phone without success. They call the police to his place. He is found dead in his bed. No signs of foul play. He was single with no dependents. Everybody is completely shocked. Word spreads quickly throughtout the hospital. Some nurses are brought to tears. I realized I may have been the last person he saw and spoke to before he died. The hospital held a memorial for him and he was eulegized by many surgeons and anesthesiologists. He was only forty years old.

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