Wednesday, 16 May 2007

True forgiveness

What happened to my sister was that, while the consultant was still outside the operating theatre, scrubbing up for what was meant to be a routine operation, the registrar made the first small incision to insert the camera. With that one cut, he nicked her aorta and she began to bleed profusely.

During the course of the operation that followed, my sister received 17 units of blood - that's twice what the human body normally holds. Twice, the surgeons thought they had lost her and wondered whether to stop. But God was with her that day, and not only did the surgeons keep going, but there was a vascular surgeon in the next theatre who had just finished an operation and was able to come in to repair her aorta. Without him, she would certainly have died.

Meanwhile, when he realised what had happened, the young registrar who had made the incision had passed out. He came round utterly distraught, and tried to assist in the operation to save her life but was unable to do so.

My sister was taken down to intensive care, where there was an anxious wait to see whether she had suffered brain damage - apparently quite a common complication when you lose so much blood so quickly. Thank God, there was no permanent damage there.

On about the sixth day, she was well enough to have been moved out of intensive care. My brother-in-law and I were at the hospital, and he excused himself and went to talk to someone.

When he came back, he explained that the person he had been talking to had been pointed out to him the previous day as the registrar who had made the original incision. With my sister's agreement, my brother-in-law had, at the first opportunity, gone up to the registrar to say that there were no hard feelings.

In fact, he wanted to make it absolutely clear that he and my sister were full of admiration for someone who was doing such an important job and had the courage to perform surgery, knowing the consequences it could have if anything went wrong.

I often think of that registrar, and hope that he was able to continue his training and follow his vocation as a doctor. I also often think of my sister and brother-in-law's example when I'm tempted to hold someone's mistakes against them.

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