Have you ever felt that you are just not happy? Well if so, welcome to my club. I am a physician — a trauma surgeon to be exact. I just found your wonderful website, have a forty minute break and want to tell you about me during this limited time.
Forty minutes in a life of a trauma surgeon is a very long time. You see, my life is more hectic than even your average physician. I don't have a routine. I wake up when my pager goes on and sleep when it is silent. That could be any time during the day. Sometimes I tell myself where is this life going? Am I truly happy?
When I was nine just before leaving Iran, my next-door neighbor whom I adored disappeared one day. The next day I found out that she was in a car accident. When they took her to the closest hospital five miles away she was dead. I can still see her smiley face in front of me. Heck, I may even have loved her. I remember that day I told myself, I will not let this happen to anyone else if I could help it. Then in third-year medical school, I discovered trauma surgery and I loved it.
Trauma surgery is very demanding and grueling residency. During the first few years, working over hundred hours a week was routine. My work is basically made up of the worst emergency cases that one can see from a ruptured spleen to multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen. I have basically become a machine. I am armed with two pagers, a scalpel and a focused mind — a mind determined to save a life at all cost.
A typical day in the office is as follows: I get paged; they tell me about the case before the patient is wheeled in. I get the info I need. Then I go and scrub, put on my gown and prepare for the arrival of the victim. The victim is wheeled in. Usually trauma to the abdomen, even multiple gunshot.
I go in with the team made up of a senior resident and couple of junior residents, an anesthesiologist and nurses all in one room. I open the patient's abdomen, I find the bullet, take it out, close the patient and then go meet the family. “Hi Ms Jones… your son is lucky, he will be okay… Or Sorry… we did everything we could, the bullet had done too much damage… I am very sorry.”
If the news is good they thank me: 'Thank you doctor.” Or if the patient is Iranian, then it is something like “May god keep your children for you forever… thank you for saving our son.” I thank them back and leave, off to the next page. In this type of work if one gets too emotional, then one better quit and do something else because it is just not possible.
For Iranians, being a surgeon is like being “God”. But I don't feel this way at all. I love the work but it also comes with a heavy price. You see, my work has prevented me from interacting with others, from having fun, from falling in love. Sure I get the adrenaline rush and the lives I help to save, well, there are no words to describe the feeling. But I can't say I am happy. In fact, I am not happy at all.
I don't remember the last time I went to the movies with my friends or even had a date. I have known wonderful Iranian girls who liked me and I liked them too. But they just couldn't take it. What woman wants to live with a guy who is never around. I don't blame them. I couldn't love them. I soon realized I am already married to my work. Marrying them sounded more like having an affair with another woman. They didn't deserve me. They deserve someone who gave them lots of love back. I couldn't give them that.
I can open a patient's chest and hold their heart in my hand and save their life. Save a life of a son, a husband, a boyfriend. I can do something not many on this planet can. But I also can't do something that many on this planet can. I can't love. I could offer a woman a fancy life style, money, cars but not love.
Well my forty minutes are over and before I get another page I better go. I would like to say to those who are deciding to enter medicine or any other profession that needs a lot of dedication: Don't ever compromise happiness for anything.”