This was first published in Tamarind Rice's
October issue in my column "An Appletini
A Day..." Click the picture to read the entire
 magazine online for free.
The other day, I was in the operation theater with a patient and about an hour into the surgery, there was only one thought going through my mind: I swear I'm going to kill this girl. Now, that's a pretty severe thought to cross the mind of a doctor and definitely not one you want to hear from the anaesthesiologist handling your case. I understand. The irony was the reason behind it, of course.
The girl on the operating table had fractured her leg and was posted for an orthopedic procedure to stabilize her bones. She was quite a brave one at sixteen years of age and unlike most people her age asked for a spinal anaesthesia so that she could be awake during the procedure though she would not feel the pain. Convinced she could handle it, I did give her a spinal and she was totally relaxed and calm as the surgery began, listening in on what the operating surgeons were discussing.
So far so good. The real issue began when she got bored of the surgeons and I gave her my mobile phone to play with. She was kind enough not to go through my mail and Whatsapp messages. But she was not as kind to my mobile game scores.
Within thirty minutes of handing over my phone, all the high scores on my mobile games had a new Top score and my initials had entirely disappeared from the lists. She resisted any attempts by me to gently extract my phone back from her, realizing my true intentions. 
Pretty soon, while the doctors were hammering in nails at one end of the drapes, a different battle was going on at the other end with the two of us trying to defeat each other in a game of slicing flying fruits on a mobile screen. Sufficed to say, I got my butt whipped by that young girl even as the surgeons cheered her on once they realized what was happening (traitors!!).
I remembered that incident this month for an entirely different reason. A long time ago, a fifteen year old girl named Hannah Greener walked into an operation theater just like this to get a toenail removed. She never walked out of that room. Hannah Greener died on the operating table, the first documented case of a death due to anaesthesia. That was back in 1848, barely two years after the first successful demonstration of anaesthesia and painless surgery.
If you look at any ancient depiction of a surgery, you will note the presence of a number of people holding down the man in agony while an operation was being done on him. Back then, patients often died because of the pain during the surgery rather than the surgery itself.
167 years ago, this month, the first successful demonstration of anaesthesia changed the face of surgical history. After twenty two centuries of performing painful surgeries, the doctor and the patient finally had a choice. Today, we have advanced so far ahead in the field of anaesthesia that no age group, no medical condition or deformity is considered a contraindication for surgery, given the right facilities. The risks remain as high as ever but the knowledge of what to look out for and how to prevent or treat it has advanced so far that it seems like an entirely different world from the day when Hannah Greener lost her life for a simple toenail. A world where a young girl is given the choice between whether she wants to be awake or asleep while doctors place rods in her leg, knowing that she will be comfortable throughout the operation. A world where the surgeons are laughing and giggling with the girl as they operate on her, advising her on which movie to go to once she leaves the hospital. A world where the only concern for the anaesthesiologist is whether he will be able to reclaim his mobile games high score or at least defeat the girl in one game while the whole staff is watching.
P.S. For the record, the answer is No. Her high scores in Fruit Ninja and a few other games are yet to be broken. And yes, I have stopped giving my mobile to patients till I reclaim my high scores in all these games.

Haappy Diwali everyone !


49 Comments

Rohit said…
LOLZ ! Thanks for the heads up!I took ages to get my high scores! I certainly ain't gonna carry a cellphone into the OT ever! :P
maithili said…
Hahah this is such a cute post. I hate it when someone asks my phone to play games and beats my scores >_<
Indeed the advances in medicine has been tremendous but some horrific tales I still hear about anesthetics going wrong. I guess its a double edged sword if in the wrong hands :P

Happy Diwali :D
Ruch said…
I wanted to read a book through my surgery. But my surgeon thwarted me by putting me under a General :)
Karanth S R said…
Ha ha ha... Nice post. All the best for Fruit Ninja ;)
Anonymous said…
My third attempt at commenting! Cute post with a lot of depth. Once, I played fruit ninja challenge with my 16 year old son and lost miserably! :D
Vinaya Naidu said…
sweet post! i didn't know an anesthetist can create such fun stories out of surgeries:)
beware beware !! dont fall for that trick.. never let them have your phone!!
true.. I'm considering deleting the game and re-installing it. Yes, im a sore loser! hmmph.

And definitely, there are still many horror tales in anaesthesia, Maithili. It will always remember a dangerous branch no matter what... things can go downhill in an instant if not properly checked in advance.
I've been lucky till date, I guess.
So far no patient has asked me for a book.. many have wanted to see the operation via nearby television monitors.. some play games on my mobile. A couple of them called their mom who was sitting outside the operation theater to let them know 'ALL IZZ WELL'
As I mentioned to Maithili, I'm seriously considering deleting and re-installing. Its embarrassing after awhile.
Thirds times a charm :) The youngsters today would beat us all ends up in mobile games.. luckily, my mobile aint savvy enough for high-definition graphic games.. Its bad enough losing with poor graphic games o_0
After giving anaesthesia, especially in spinal in normal cases, lots of free time for it :D
Rohan said…
Good one!! :P Happy Diwali to you too!!
Superbly written, heart warming post. Won't expect anything less though. Great as ever.
Soham Roy said…
Nice post....Surprising how the girl could afford to ho around breaking hi-scores at Fruit-Ninja , when a bunch Doctors were busy fidgeting around with her Bones , Spines and What not....:)
Kathy said…
That is bizarre that here you are putting rods in her legs and she is beating your scores at the same time. Makes me woozy just thinking about it!! :P I had an epidural for my c-section and was awake but couldn't see anything. Still I can't imagine playing a game during that. LOL
Anonymous said…
Wow, this was quite a post, going from the history of anasthesia to high scores on Fruit Ninja, and that too quite making the transition quite beautifully and coherently. Loved the post :D
Happy Diwali man :)
Thanks Deepak. Glad you liked it.
Its a matter of individual strength... I've seen much bigger and muscular men weep the moment they see a needle!
haha.. she was courageous... frankly, after awhile, she was just bored of lying there. Thats when I made the mistake of entertaining her by giving my mobile and thus losing all my high scores :D
Thanks... I'm glad you liked it. While writing, I debated quite a bit whether to add the bit on our history to this.. in the end, decided it was necessary to show how things have changed.
Priya K said…
Wow.. Such a cute post Roshan... !! And yes... Anaesthesia has come a long way..!! Thanks to anaesthetists like you who in spite of all the risks ,manage to bring the patient out of danger.. And about fruit ninja.. Hilarious..!! Only you could bring out such humour in a post like this.. Well written.. ! And I am sure you will have your high scores again which no one would be able to break again.. !!
Binu Thomas said…
Hehe.. Funny incident doctor.. And that's precisely the reason why I dont share my mobile phone with anyone.. It has nothing to do with whatsapp messages / sms.. Its just that my games (2-3 at most) should have my name as the high scorer ;-)
Thanks Priya :D I'm part of the guild that feels that anaesthetists are severely underappreciated in todays world... they take on a really risk job and yet, noone knows of their role.
As for the game, I'm gonna get the new Nexus 5 and change all my games !! Then put electric wires around my mobile so noone else can touch it, just to be safe !
Oh I definitely agree... the sadness of seeing another persons name on your mobile top scores list.. oh it hurts so bad :(
Shezeen Gafoor said…
haha.. good one!!! but yea... try harder for ur high scores.. :P N happy Diwali to u too..!!!! :)
LOL...! You are such a fun Doc ! :D
By the way, on my blog roll there are two blogs now with the title 'The games we play' the other being Nancy's (Reflections). I guess you guys can come to a compromise on this :-)
Sumana said…
Superb ..:)
Thanks Shezeen. Nice to hear from you after so long. Happy Diwali :D
Satyam satyam satyam ! :)
NEVA!!! I refuse to back down !! She has 48 hours to surrender before I file a lawsuit !!
What! She used it first ! :-P
Ini entho cheyyum?
NO !! no no no... MINE. MINE. MINE. MINE. I already lost in FRuit Ninja!! no more ! Inquilab Zindabad !
Sreeja Praveen said…
Arey inject some anaesthesia into your mobile phone before you give it to any such patient :D the phone will be too numb to respond :D
you can retain ur scores and still be friends with the patient :D :D :D
idea enganendu.... :D :D
Swarnali said…
That is quite a story :D I had asked my anesthesiologist to give me a local one so that I could actually see it on the monitor and hear what they talked amongst themselves but sadly, he didn't agree :-( But I can't help saying, that kid was really a brave one...I hope you manage to beat her scores :P
ME said…
Huh.... if I had known that doctors gave their mobile phones to play games I could have opted for a spine anesthesia when I had to undergo an operation.... shhh... I missed!

But that was quite a story.... hope you beat her scores very soon... :D
This is a true Malayalee :D
If you had given me this idea in ot, atleast now I still wouldnt be sitting here still trying to defeat her score all these months later.
Thanks Swarnali.. many a time, we do give the patient a choice but we do tend to tip the scales for what we feel is safer while explaining it to the patient.
And sigh... dont remind me of the high scores...
:D Believe me, after hearing this, I'm sure no more anaesthesiologists will be handing their mobiles to you in the near future !!

Anonymous said…
I have never been inside an operation theatre but when Geet was having her cesarean, she was wide awake and did not feel a thing. That was quite amazing.
Anonymous said…
WHY is there no option to 'like' your posts? :( A lazy ass like me finds commenting a bit too much of a chore. :D
Awesome! once again.
Good to hear... thats my job as well, basically :)
No option? There actually is immediately after the post and before the comments begin.
And thanks :D
Meety said…
I somehow lost this post bwn all the chaos surrounding my vacation! Hope you had a lovely Diwali.. and share my mobile?? esp for the games?? I can neva do that.. so my high scores always remain MY high scores :D
Happy Diwali Meety :)
And yes, you obviously aren't as easily fooled as I was by this scheming girl!! She has no idea how much tension she has added to my life... just to get back into top3 scores ;'(
Anshul Taran said…
Haha..
That's awesome to describe so beautifully sir.
Yes, our field has advanced so much, what I heared before entering into the anaesthesia that "Anaesthesiologists" purposely cancle the case without any reason, but in my two years of PGT, we rarely have canceled any case because of advanced machines and management of patient because of qualified anaesthesiologists :)