Monthly Archives: Jan 2010

Feeling Intensely

Intense Feeling

Today is different. Ever since waking up, I’ve been feeling things differently.

More intensely.

It started first thing in the morning. Being disturbed early on a Sunday morning by bright sunlight streaming in through half-drawn curtains, the buzzing of a mosquito in my ear, would regularly leave me annoyed. Not today. I felt happy – that I have a roof over my head, a net to guard me from those tiny ‘marauding monsters’, and the gift of a new day to enjoy.

When I sat down to a breakfast of left-over macaroni and cheese, I didn’t feel vaguely dissatisfied or yearn for something tastier, fresher, healthier. Instead, I felt grateful – that there’s food on my table, and that I’m well enough to eat it, taste it, relish it.

The sight of my uncleaned car would typically irritate me, the act of giving it a hurried wash performed with distaste and in a rush. But today, I lingered over it, feeling joy – that I have a car (with a full tank) to drive to work.

As I wove my way over pot-holed roads, zig-zagging and swerving to avoid gaping voids in the tarmac, I didn’t curse and lament as usual. Not this morning. I was happy – that there was a road to drive on.

Stopping at red lights, always guaranteed to generate a frisson of frustration, didn’t change this overall mood either. I saw it as a symbol of a framework that allows peaceful, streamlined co-existence amongst thousands of my fellow citizens, the alternative to which is chaos and bedlam.

At hospital, I was examining my little patient who had heart surgery last week – and felt a rush of deep satisfaction for the work I’m involved in, mixed with a deep gratitude for having a healthy child of my own.

All this intense feeling about things I had taken for granted until today was because I realized, very poignantly and bluntly, how fragile things are in our Universe.

In Haiti, last week, there were people who had similar things – and they no longer do. Thousands aren’t even alive. Millions would gladly switch places with me – or you – without any hesitation.

And yet, how often have we felt intensely about what we have, what we are, what we could become?

Shouldn’t we feel intensely more often? About more things?

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The Price of Efficiency

Soon after my residency training in heart surgery, I worked at a corporate hospital for a few months. It was an efficient, streamlined unit. Surgeons spent most of their time inside the operating room. Different specialists managed specific parts of the patient care process.

But no one was involved in every part. And team members took pride in statistics like the total number of patients operated, low complication rates, and effective resource utilization.

It was impersonal.

When I returned after a fellowship in U.K. and Australia, I spent a year at another corporate hospital. The interaction with patients was slightly more for doctors, though not much.

Primarily, we performed operations, and responsibility for other areas was very limited. While some satisfaction for specific patient outcomes was felt, team members by and large rejoiced in numbers and data rather than people.

It was abstract.

Now, I head and manage my own program. It isn’t very large. I am directly engaged in every step of the process – whether it involves patients or not. There are days I feel more like purchase manager or HR executive than surgeon!

I am also responsible for anything that goes wrong or doesn’t work or is missing when it’s needed. Engagement with patients and their families is personal, direct and frequent. It can happen at inconvenient times during the day (or night, too).

It is intensely personal.

Today, as I waved goodbye to my little 6-year old patient who has recovered from a complex congenital heart defect repair and is going back home, I felt a thrill of sheer delight as he smilingly waved back, and a grin lit up his tiny shining face.

It felt special… because I’m involved in every part of his treatment.

Efficiency comes at a price.

But, so does inefficiency!

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