As I sit at the Delhi Airport , after attending my first Vitreo-retinal Society of India conference, I keep thinking back at the days when I wanted to drop out of Surgical retina training.
Back in 2013, hardly a month after I had finished my Post graduation In ophthalmology, I entered into Surgical retina fellowship, something which even my mentor warned me not to take as the learning curve is steep with the results less than satisfying most of the times.
Within 3 days of joining, I started feeling lonely as the program was at Kerala , and the food was something I was not used to at all. By the end of third week, I was pretty much convinced about quitting. Somehow family and a few friends shared their words of wisdom which made me stay.
By the end of 1 year, there was a bit of a problem with my cataract training which I was receiving side-by-side. Due to some altercations with the trainee in charge, I thought it best to concentrate on retina training alone and become good at it so that the same person who denied me cataract surgery would come back to me for managing his complications. I managed to finish my 2 year retina fellowship in 2015.
Whether it was a bold step or a stupid one, I had no inkling what it was when I decided to not continue in the same hospital where I did my fellowship, but rather come out and take the Position of Head of Retina offered in Vasan (am pretty happy with my decision now, though).
After a few successful surgeries with simple cases (on a comparative scale to other complicated ones in retina, but I would later wisen up to not consider any case as a simple one), I started venturing into complicated ones. With a few surgeries, I ended up with my first complication, something which shook me up. The warnings of my mentor reverberated in my mind as I precariously tried to save the vision with multiple surgeries but failed in doing so.
The first failure for a surgeon, as a consultant, must always be devastating I guess. I went into a state of depression and even contemplated about becoming a non-operating retina specialist. This time my moral support came in an unexpected form of a fellow colleague, years senior to me by age and experience. With his support and after hearing the amount of hardships and failures he had to endure to become what he is now, I continued. Dr.Wahidullah, the colleague, made me remember the saying “THE ONLY SURGEON WHO DOESN’T HAVE COMPLICATIONS IS ONE WHO DOESN’T OPERATE”
But as is with the field of surgical retina, after a month or so, I ended up with two more patients that did not achieve the results I expected. This time, it was a failure that happened months after my surgery. But by now I had come to face the reality that the failure rate in retina is something I have to deal with. Just because I put hours of surgical work in trying to rectify the pathology, I cannot expect something out of the ordinary.
I persevered, continued operating, went to my esteemed colleague Dr.Wahidullah and also, my family,for advice and reassurance whenever I was feeling low. At the same time, I shared the success I had with most difficult of the cases with him too, which made me feel better.
I look at the above two pre-op and post-op pictures of one of the most complicated cases I ever did with success to re-assure myself whenever I have a difficult case to operate or a failure.
Nearing 200 surgeries now, and especially after attending this conference where stalwarts in the field were sharing their success as well as their failure stories, I am now heading back to my place with renewed confidence and determination to continue as a Surgical retina specialist and improve my skill set. And tomorrow, I will give my best to save another patient’s vision.
Makes me wanna say my own version of the words by Stallone as Rocky Balboa in the movie Creed.
“One patient at a time.One eye at a time. One surgery at a time.”