We had survived the first wave of Covid. The Covid admissions at my hospital were down and we had resumed elective surgery. Things were running as smoothly as they could in the new normal.
I washed alone in the darker scrub room. I always use this scrub time to focus on the case at hand. Surgery forces one to be very mindful, unlike other high pressure jobs where you may have to multi-task. In surgery all you have to do is focus on the next case.
I looked through to my operating theatre, the room lights bright with the scrub sister positioning the brighter operating lights for me to make my incision. Over the decades these were the third ,and by far the best, set of lights to work with, I thought to myself. Was I thinking more today, or was I just more aware?
Surgery is a privileged profession, one which captivates and entrances. It is also a demanding discipline where failure stabs at your heart with no forgiveness. But this morning I was captivated by the lights. For the first time as a surgeon I realised the operating room light is a representation of the primeval force of fire that bound humanity by giving light in the darkness. This light was the result of our forebears discovery of fire. Nothing less.
Back to scrubbing. Palm to back of hand. Left then right. Then each thumb. Forearms then rinse. I always worry about the waste of water. I should change to a dry scrub. But I find the noise and sensation of running water soothing.
I glanced into my theatre. My eyes focussed and stayed there.
The light shone in a circle of circles, each emanating like a ripple in a pond from a stone thrown by some child.
It is my twenty third year of operating here. I have survived a few medical mishaps of my own: a few kidney stones, a cardiac stent, amoebic colitis, surgery for arthritis to my thumb and now I think I have COVID.
It was as if I could see the virus now. There were halos I had not noticed before. Maybe it was from all the scratches of cleaning my visor. Last week I worked with a nurse in that same theatre for two days and they tested positive for COVID after that.
It was five and seven days since my exposure. As a health care professional I could continue to work until I had symptoms.
But the light does not shine on premonitions.
The next day I tested positive.