Detachment

April 21, 2008 § 1 Comment

Many people find interest in surgery to be incomprehensible and even a bit bizarre, referring to the diseases and inevitable memento mori the subject implies.

Lately I’ve been asking myself the question: Would I be as interested in surgery and anatomy if I wasn’t so detached from these implications myself?

In many ways my work is all about disease. I’m currently documenting diagnosis and treatment of cancer, so all my subject material is related to it. But it’s in a totally different way than to a nurse or a doctor. I seldom see the whole course of a treatment, from the discovery of cancer to curation or, in many cases, death. I don’t see the agony of the family and friends.

I get to read up on interesting little details of human anatomy, and marvel at complicated surgery seen up close. But I never get to hear about the fear of the patient the night before surgery. And I don’t know about the complications. The surgical wound hernias. The failed anastomosis.

Of course this makes my job easier. I don’t have to think about the human aspect that much. Although I often do (see here or here). I can focus on editing the surgeon’s movements so they are pleasant to the eye. Seeing the beauty of the anatomical structures as they unfold under the scalpel. But every now and then I get a little sting of bad consciousness. Should I be looking forward to a complicated operation because I’ve never filmed it before? Operations are good. They cure people. But it sometimes feels a bit like chasing ambulances, even though I’m working for the same guys who own the ambulance.

I try to keep dual thoughts on these things. Allowing myself to be fascinated by surgery and anatomy while still seeing the bigger picture. I wonder how the surgeons manage. Maybe it’s when they see the difference their work makes for other people that it really becomes fascinating? But what about those times they fail?

I feel privileged to be able to see, through my work, the insides of the human body, and the manipulation of it to cure diseases. Things most people never see. But I can’t shake the feeling I sometimes get, of being a free rider.

The photo at the top is of a retinal detachment (photo credit). A disorder I fortunately do not suffer from.

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