A Medical Legend

(Through Rose-Coloured Glasses)

This is a 50 years old legend, from HKU.

Young Dr. Kildare was a first year surgical resident. He was not on call that night. As a matter of fact, he was having a happy time with his buddies in the bar near the hospital. Suddenly his beeper went off.

“Excuse me, I have to call the hospital.”

“Doctor you are needed in emerg, there is a serious multi-cars accident. We are overwhelmed. We need all the help we can get.”

Back to the hospital he went. He was assigned a patient with stomach ache, and with a tummy as hard as rock, who screamed with every touch. He made the quick diagnosis, appendicitis, that required surgery right away. He tried to find the chief surgical resident, who was tied up with the accident cases. The chief sent back a message, the case is all yours.

Young Kildare’s jaw almost touched the floor. He had never done any appendectomy bt himself before. He assisted in a few cases, and did some other surgeries, that’s all. Well, you know the surgical basic, you have to walk when your horse died, the young doctor kept telling himself. He went in to scrub and put on the surgical gown and mask.

Nervously he entered the Operation Theatre and approached the operating table. The patient was already prepped, and waiting for him. He spreaded the drapes and covered the body.

“Scapel.” He put out his hand, and made the first cut. He tried to remember the number of layers he had to cut through, before he could enter the abdominal cavity. Luckily, he had the abdomen opened with minimal bleeding. He was congratulating himself silently.

“Rat, where is the appendix.” He searched and searched, with no success. He began sweating, beads of water appeared on his forehead. Then he realized. “Holy Mackerel, I am on the left side, the wrong side for the appendix.” He almost passed out.

Swearing, he changed side with the nurse and made another cut. This time the inflammed appendix was quickly located, ligated and cut. Now he had to closed both wounds, one left, one right.

An hour later, when the patient woke up from the anaesthetic, the young Dr. Kildare was already at the bedside, speaking in a low voice, “you see, I want to make sure everything is OK, so I took a look at the other side too. And this is on the house, no extra charge.”

The patient was extremely grateful and thanked the young doctor over and over again.

Well, that is the legend.

Headline in today’s newspaper: Patient sued for wrongful masectomies.

So the legend might be a true story, after all. Time changes, but there are things that never do.

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