Auf Wiedersehen, Orthopaedics

Yesterday was my last day on the Orthophaedic service. Today I begin four months of Surgery.

How hard were these past two months? Together with one other intern, I looked after a firm of up to eighty patients. We did ward rounds with our senior colleagues only once a week. The rest of the time it was up to us to manage our patients and keep them alive (and know when to call for help).

Every day I had to explain to my patients why they could not be operated upon yet. Our department serves half of the Eastern Cape (so, give or take 3 million people) and we have a grand total of two theatres available. We operate Monday to Saturday 08h00 to 16h00. After hours are for emergencies only. And still there is no way we can keep up with the load of patients needing surgery.

"Bones in Youth, Bangkok Writer Thailand
“Bones in Youth, Bangkok Writer Thailand

I had a good time. I amputated fingers, drained hand abscesses, applied casts to broken limbs, and sometimes even had some fun with orthopaedic drills. On the odd occasion I could convince myself that I changed – or at least saved – a life.

I dreaded this rotation, but it far exceeded my expectations.

I do hope that surgery will do the same.

(I also happen to be on call today. HELP.)


  1. etudesque says:

    Congrats on completing your rotation, and best of luck in your new rotation in Surgery! Just reading “orthopaedic drills” sends a shiver down my spine and I’m so glad that there are people like you who take on these rough procedures so that lives can be saved 🙂

  2. Nancy Ackelson says:

    I just have to smile at this. First, congratulations to you! Second, that photo! Third, this paragraph, “I had a good time. I amputated fingers, drained hand abcesses…”! Yes, ❤ ❤ ❤

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