This American Life reports, "In 1961, a Russian doctor got appendicitis at a Soviet Antarctic station, and so he needed emergency surgery to remove his appendix or he would probably die. And he was the one doctor there, snowed in during a blizzard. And so he had to figure out what to do.
And so this Russian, a 27-year-old surgeon named Leonid Rogozov removed his own appendix and lived." In the end, he recovered fully and two weeks later, he was back on the job as a surgeon."
Ira Glass, from This American Life, interviewed Dr. Doug Smink, a surgeon and associate professor at Harvard Medical school, about the story.
Dr. Smink says, "Probably most impressive to me, though, is what is the mental aspect of this. And he obviously had the perfect personality to pull this off. And then to have the courage, but also the wherewithal to assemble a team and explain to them what they were going to do while he had appendicitis."
At one point, Glass asks Dr. Smink whether he could have done the surgery on himself.
He paused. It was clear that the interviewer was expecting an answer of "Likely not." But the surgeon ended up saying, "I'd like to think I could, if given no other option."
Like many healthcare providers, I have performed minor surgery in a cave and in a restaurant. I've given people turning purple the Heimlich maneuver on the airport tarmac.
So many of us work in adverse conditions every day. And because we take our oath so seriously, in some ways it's not anything special -- it's just what we do.
This really is an amazing story of discipline, courage and ingenuity. But to me, it is a story that highlights the everyday discipline, courage, and ingenuity of all medical providers -- demonstrated so strikingly by the doctor in Antarctica. As Doctor's Day passes, I'm taking a moment to applaud what healthcare providers do everyday. They're not lauded as heroes for it; but they are heroes, nonetheless.
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