Just Another Day in the Life of an Ophthalmologist

I woke up, scratched my head, squinted at the shrieking mobile phone – alarm, hurriedly tapped it off and scrambled to get those few precious minutes of extra sleep. Once I was fully awake I decided to freshen myself up and grab some grub, which my better half had fortunately prepared as always. I rushed to the door, said goodbye and ran downstairs instead of waiting for the aged elevator. The Ritz responded to my touch and started up smoothly.


At seven AM, there I was, entering Aravind Eye Care, Salem. It was “theatre day” and me, Dr. Vinayak and our chief, Dr. Manohar were to take the reins on said day to handle all patients to be operated. We were soon inside the ‘OR’ and patients started arriving, were prepped and placed on respective beds to be operated on. Most of the cases given me were administered topical anesthesia (using only drops to prevent pain during surgery). This gave the patient freedom of movement, which would become a hinderance at times. One such horrendously uncooperative patient ended up at my slot, and decided to roll his eyes around just when I was starting my capsulorrhexis (an opening in the lens bag to remove the cataract). With a rapidly rising heart rate (that was mine and not the patient’s) I completed the case in twenty minutes all the while enduring his ocular excursions, then took a deep breath. Following this came another curious specimen who felt the irresistible urge to empty his bladder one minute after I had started operating on him. I considered the risks of leaving his eye partially open with just a sterile pad and bandage so he could go to the toilet and back, and weighed it against the horrible prospect of endangering the sterility of the ‘OR’ in case he decided to relieve himself right there. I decided I’d take the risk and in three minutes, the cataract was out, the artificial lens slid into the lens bag, followed by eye washing and filling with saline, before declaring the case complete. It wasn’t until then that I realized eighty year old males were capable of leaping with such energy from the bed onto a wheelchair to be wheeled away to the toilet. All – in – all, my ‘OR’ turn was a success with a total of fifteen cases. I breathed a sigh of relief.

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After enriching myself with a small tea – break, I made my way to the Out – Patient Department (OPD), where a considerable number of cases had been piling up in spite of a few doctors who were already there. It was 10:30 AM and I proceeded to examine a few patients who had been waiting for me. Among them was a toothless granny whom I had seen just a week ago and who had been perfectly normal. On further questioning, she revealed she had just come for ‘summa’ checkup (which meant ‘bugger its just like that – you had better give me some eyedrops’). I sighed and gave her some tear substitutes after assuring that all was indeed well with her.

It was soon lunch time, and I drove home. Ninety minutes later, I walked again into the hospital, this time heading toward the septic section of the ‘OR’ to operate on a few lacrimal surgeries, which I had allotted on that particular day. The first case was uneventful and at the end of the surgery, I smiled as the lacrimal duct patency tested was intact and saline injected in the patient’s tear duct near the eye, reached her throat after flowing through its usual passage – the block had been removed! The second case however, posed certain problems and I sighed as I saw a considerable pooling of blood emerging from the lacrimal (tear) sac area. I placed a sterile pad over the bleed, and compressed the area for a minute, then peeked in to see if the flow had stopped. It’s reduction encouraged me, and I proceeded to punch off a few bits of bone from the nasal side, to expose the nasal mucosa/tissue. The bleeding started again, in all its fury. I hastily used suction from the vacuum apparatus, and alternated it with compression, all the while making flaps from the lacrimal sac and the nasal mucosa, in an attempt to suture them together, thus forming a connection for the tears to drain through. I made two flaps for each, sutured the superficial ones, and removed the inferior flaps, with some difficulty (the bleed, unfortunately had a life of its own.) I checked the lacrimal patency with some mild apprehension, and heaved a sigh of relief when the patient said he could feel the saline in his throat following injection through the tear duct. So that was that! By the time I emerged from the septic ‘OR’ it was tea – time, and I grabbed some tea before heading down again to the ‘OPD’.

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After examining and treating twenty other cases, I left at 6 PM, headed back home, picked up my better half, and raced to the gym, the Ritz showing off its spectacular manouevers as weaved in and out through traffic. The treadmill loomed like a giant monster, and I approached it wondering if I had any strength left in me to go through this. I started walking, until the endorphins kicked in and then started running at 12 kmph, which I maintained for an hour. Warming down to 10 kmph, then further tapering to 8 and then to 6 kmph, I finally got off the treadmill in 75 minutes, with a satisfactory smile. 14 km covered, and 1000 calories burnt – not bad at all. I felt slightly dizzy, then replenished myself with water, relaxed and stretched myself out, before I drove us both home.

Dinner was nothing short of great, a meal to complete the day, over a few great TV series such as ‘Boston Legal’ , ‘Two & a Half Men’ and ‘The Killing’ on Star World. I went through my events of the day – yes I was dead – tired. But was I unhappy? I guess I couldn’t say that even the least. That’s my life right there, and I love it – rest, eat, operate & work, work – out, eat again, and sleep. Oh boy, life can never be better.