The Size of Your World is the Depth of Your Consciousness

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Simply Genius

I skip off to the hospital to meet Prof Hock Lim Tan, Distinguished Professor MBBS MD FRACS FRCS. We were going to film him in the OT performing "keyhole" surgery to remove a child's ovaries and a kidney.

I'm excited! And slightly worried. OTs and I don't get on that well. All that bloody red stuff, you know. Here's hoping I behave.

The crew and I arrive. I can't help thinking I'm slightly overdressed for the part. Everyone else is wearing a frown and hunched either in pain or worry. We are taken upstairs and shown the changing rooms. "Get out of your togs and into scrubs. Here's a cap and face mask while you're at it."

Ok. My turn to wear the frown. It disappears the moment the Prof swings into the lobby. He pulls down his mask and says, "See you in the OT in a few minutes."

Lights. Camera. Action.
There are about a dozen people in there. The patient has a camera stuck down her belly button and the images come up on 3 screens. I can see the child's abdominal cavity ~ the Professor points out the reproductive organs ~ fallopian tubes, ovaries, womb. I can see blood vessels throbbing. Biology come to life. Amazing!

Suddenly the room goes green. My crew and I look at each other. I ask Prof and he says the green light supports vision and helps the medical team see better. Like a war zone, he explains.

The surgeons puncture several little holes for their equipment to be inserted.
Professor singles out the section of the ovary where the incision is to be made and clamps it with his left hand, while with his right, he uses a laser cutter to detach the ovary. 3 snips and it's done.
Hmmm. So these guys are ambidextrous.

All that while talking his team through the procedure. There's the 2nd surgeon on standby to do the other ovary, there's the anaesthetist, there are observers (student doctors I think) from Thailand and Indonesia and about 3-4 nurses. Prof's MO is there too. Pint high but deep voice. Wise. Authoritative. Immediately I warmed to her.

As he hands over to his assistant to take over, Prof says this is one of his easier cases. Laparoscopic surgery is now being done for many other complicated things like open heart surgery, duodenal atresia, and pancreatectomy.

Leaving the OT, I felt a combination of emotion. Firstly relieved for being fit and healthy, then immensely lucky for having been invited to witness innovation in medical science, and grateful for being able to tell my story.

I'll be posting my video of this amazing op on my website soon. So watch this space!