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
1. Extreme mountain biking – Working with little room for error.
2. 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.
3. Wingsuit base jumping – Don’t start something you can’t finish.
4. 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.
5. 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
6. Bach – With much practice and concentration comes a chance to perform beautifully.
7. Nadal, Federer, and Eminem - Concentration, precision, and endurance
8. Top Gun – Operative trauma feels like this.
9. Lindsay Vonn – Not afraid.
10. History and future of surgery – TED lecture
11. Quarterback – Racing the clock, calling the shots, working with your hands and your team.
12. Von Thord – Forever re-inventing old craft.
13. Atul Gawande and Steven Colbert – Not really on theme for this page, but both these guys are really cool, and one is a surgeon.
14. Prefontaine, ’72 Olympics – Giving legendary effort, and seeing defeat nonetheless.
15. On a Precipice – Backing out may be harder than moving on, and you can’t know which is the case.
16. Brain Surgeon – Speaks for itself.
17. Engine Stall – Improvising.
18. Recuerdos de la Alhambra – Simple, complex, beautiful work.
19. Freerunning – Precision takes practice. Performing takes guts.
20. Rocky II – This one is more like residency.
21. Get Back – Talented, dedicated teams create great performances.
22. Good Will – Sometimes it’s cool to be the smart one.
23. Jordan – Clutch player.
24. Weird Al
25. Marines – Discipline. Work ethic. Instinct to go where the action is.
26. LeBron James - Leading a team. Confident action while the clock ticks
27. Real Surgeon! Total inspiration – Susan Lim: Singapore transplant surgeon facing unimaginable ethical challenges.
28. Letterman – Dave thanks his surgeon.
29. Maradona – Imagine the practice behind this execution.
30. God complex – Whoah!
32. 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.