The surgeon’s solitude

Have you ever felt lonely? I’m not talking about lacking company.

I mean facing nothingness head-on.

Nothingness – by Julio Mayol

It’s that feeling of emptiness and silence, when guidelines, clinical sessions, and even the opinions of the most experienced colleagues no longer matter.

It’s the solitude of an individual who must make a decision about another person’s life in a matter of seconds, when the unthinkable happens. When you’re terrified but know you can’t walk away.

Whipple Procedure.

I slip a clamp behind the pancreas, detach it from the portal vein, and…

«Damn! I’ve broken something!»

Everything fills with red fluid.


I try to clamp it shut to make it stop.


But it tears further.

«Damn it all!» – fear makes me shout.

A viscous lake starts to emerge from the laparotomy, visible even to the anesthetist, who keeps administering more crystalloid solution to the patient because the blood pressure drops abruptly.

He looks at me.

Eyes filled with fear.

Agitation and nervousness.


And deep inside me.

«I’m sorry. I know. I’m sorry!»

Here, evidence-based medicine doesn’t hold its ground anymore.

«I have to handle this,» I think.

  • «It’s going to bleed a lot!» – I softly whisper – «A lot! Keep it steady, no matter what! I’ll hold it!»

But within oneself, everything starts to accelerate.

And you’re alone.

Your ears are ringing.

Your legs are trembling.

But you’re alone.

You can’t tell anyone.

And they can barely support you; they’re weak.

The heart races.

Very fast.


Breathing is almost painful.

The air burns.

Now they don’t ring, they just buzz. Your ears.

Sounds from anywhere but your head are inaudible. They’re like senseless whispers.

You’re alone.

You either control it or everything ends.

You’re there. But alone!

That’s the solitude I’m referring to.

That exhausting black hole.

In that void, some learn to distinguish what’s essential from what’s accessory.

Others might even see my heart pounding through my chest.

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