I can remember one night in the emergency ward when the ambulance came, and we didn’t know what we were going to see when the doors of the ambulance opened. What we did see was a very beautiful 16 year-old girl who had been in a horrible automobile accident, and she was unconscious, bones were sticking out of both legs. The scalp flap was off, and blood all over and she was in shock. And obviously, there wasn’t any time to say, “What shall I do first?”
Immediately, you just have to put things in motion and handle things — the most acute first: to be sure she was breathing, stop the bleeding, get intravenous in, get the blood pressure back, then splint her legs and so on. And as I was doing that and we got the blood pressure back on her, I was told that her parents had come and could I come out and speak to them. And when I saw that she was stable enough for me to turn away from the stretcher momentarily, I did go and speak to her parents. And as I did, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. My stomach flipped, I felt nauseated. I felt weak, because of the horror of what I had just seen and had to take care of. But I couldn’t let myself feel that way until it was all right to. And that’s part of the surgical mind too, addressing what you need to, and you know you can do, and postponing how you feel about it, thinking only of the patient and what you need to do.