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.

12 thoughts on “Circles of Light

  1. As a retired specialist surgeon, I readily visualise and travel your meditative ‘journey’ in the scrub room. The challenges and the risks. Now the added stress of ‘staying safe’, the tedious preparation to avoid becoming exposed and infected with the Covid 19 virus. But in spite of these precautions you have become infected. This is an especially dangerous time for health professionals, aware of the risks, but continue with their chosen tasks. It takes courage and dedication to keep showing up. Pleased that you are recovering, and planning to return to work.

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  2. Second time around and this spikehead virus is getting closer and more personal. Thanks for honestly sharing your emotions and bringing some creative healing to all who know you. Stay safe and stay strong Basil.

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  3. The lonely path that the surgeon treads….Highly skilled, yet fallible in many ways…

    You have perfectly captured the range of emotions and preparation that precede the actual surgical incision. The total focus when the scalpel is handed over. The euphoria of a successful outcome, and the tremendous burden of guilt when misadventure strikes. Yet, with acquired clinical detachment the surgeon continues to practice his art.

    But this post has exposed another threat attendant to the privileged art of surgery – the ever-present spectre of disease. Notwithstanding common-sense, precautions and more, it does not offer immunity to pandemics.

    I am pleased you are on the road to recovery.

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  4. Beautifully expressed Basil. It gives me insight into the life of a surgeon. As a Pulmologist I live in a very different world to yours. My work routine has changed so much and is stretched out between donning and doffing. Ward rounds take up most of my time and the rest is spent fielding telephone calls from nurses, relatives and the rest of the world! How our priorities have changed….

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  5. Hi Bazil,

    I just read your blog, I’m so sorry. I hope you are doing well, I hope your symptoms are mild I really hope and I just wanted to tell you that for some bizarre reason I had your mom on my mind lately and asked my dad if he had spoken to her at all. On the 16/12 my brother visited and we had your family again in our conversations. On the 17/12 my husband arrived from a business trip in Nigeria he had done 2 tests prior to leaving and one upon arrival in Athens all three were negative. On the 21/12 he developed a fever and he tested positive on 22/12 it’s hard it’s very difficult in the house with the worry of the spread no matter what precautions we take. Yes he is isolated in his room but I still need to go and give him food, change his sheets etc… fortunately so far he has had a mild fever max 38.8 his oxygen was a bit low for the past few days but today it looked good at 97 he had a few diarrhea’s he is in antibiotics and vitamins. I hope you too have mild symptoms and overcome this monster quickly.

    Sending you warm Christmas wishes and if you speak to your mom please give her my regards.

    Love to all Katerina 💕

    >

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    1. Thank you I am fine and blessed not to have been very sick. So sorry about your husband.. Περαστικά . I can imagine it’s difficult to contain in one house . Sorry.

      Warm wishes to you and your family. I will tell my mother you send wishes and thank you! She is well and still in the same house. All the best for a better 2021..

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