Like a Surgeon
Collected here are some images, melodies, and moments to translate what surgery feels like to me, plus some thrown in just for laughs. Recommendations welcome.
Chris Porter MD – OnSurg founder
- Extreme mountain biking – Working with little room for error.
- KD Lang covers Hallelujah – This song recreates what I felt after surgery, in the quiet locker-room moment alone before talking to the father of the young man in the story below.
- Wingsuit base jumping – Don’t start something you can’t finish.
- John Mayer jams with Dave Matthews – Reminds me of the beauty of a universal skill. Like Mayer here, a surgeon can make it happen with any team, anywhere in the world.
- Riding out – A case can get a little scary, and you keep your cool, stay ahead. Then it gets really scary, and you must be even cooler.
More videos below.
How it Feels to be a Surgeon A 20-year-old man nearly bled to death on my operating table when I was a small-town surgeon. I pinged every synapse of my brain to save him – summoning surgical principles, accessing Netter atlases folded on gyri, and recalling procedures I’d only read about. I exhausted my strength trying to control a severed artery – one hand inside the thorax, the other outside – while planning an exit strategy.
I marshaled my community: the caring and dedicated local on-call team, the University trauma surgeon (by phone). I praised my own teachers and the world giants who developed the lifesaving techniques we employed. Sweat-soaked and aching at the end of the case, I took off my gown to speak to the patient’s father. I felt like scientist, priest, and game-winning athlete. After, I raced home adrenaline-intoxicated with Queen’s We are the Champions cranked on the stereo. Windows open to ocean breeze, I exulted the chorus and drove banking curves way too fast. I knew my privilege in that moment. Few people get to perform when actions count for so much, or even trust themselves for such duty under a ticking clock. Soldiers, police, and firefighters come to mind. Few selves actualize – consummating years of marathon study and clumsy practice to realize a graceful performance. Artists and athletes come to mind.
Chris Porter MD – OnSurg founder
- Bach – With much practice and concentration comes a chance to perform beautifully.
- Nadal, Federer, and Eminem – Concentration, precision, and endurance
- Top Gun – Operative trauma feels like this.
- Lindsay Vonn – Not afraid.
- History and future of surgery – TED lecture
- Quarterback – Racing the clock, calling the shots, working with your hands and your team.
- Von Thord – Forever re-inventing old craft.
- Atul Gawande and Steven Colbert – Not really on theme for this page, but both these guys are really cool, and one is a surgeon.
- Prefontaine, ’72 Olympics – Giving legendary effort, and seeing defeat nonetheless.
- On a Precipice – Backing out may be harder than moving on, and you can’t know which is the case.
- Brain Surgeon – Speaks for itself.
- Engine Stall – Improvising.
- Recuerdos de la Alhambra – Simple, complex, beautiful work.
- Freerunning – Precision takes practice. Performing takes guts.
- Rocky II – This one is more like residency.
- Get Back – Talented, dedicated teams create great performances.
- Good Will – Sometimes it’s cool to be the smart one.
- Jordan – Clutch player.
- Weird Al
- Marines – Discipline. Work ethic. Instinct to go where the action is.
- LeBron James – Leading a team. Confident action while the clock ticks
- Real Surgeon! Total inspiration – Susan Lim: Singapore transplant surgeon facing unimaginable ethical challenges.
- Letterman – Dave thanks his surgeon.
- Maradona – Imagine the practice behind this execution.
- God complex – Whoah!
- Captain of the Ship
- A tear-jerking nod to pediatric surgeons and those pioneering new techniques – a young girl tells of finding her surgeon.
Suggest One – Link us to something like surgery feels to you.
Dr Porter writes about his experience as a surgeon at On Surgery, etc. and tweets at @PorterOnSurg