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Surgical Reminiscence
May 2003

Mercedes Speed

Arch Surg. 2003;138(5):564. doi:10.1001/archsurg.138.5.564

DURING THE second year of my residency at the University of Tennessee at Memphis, I was assigned to the professors' service, which was composed primarily of patients of the legendary Drs Harwell Wilson and Louis Britt. One Thursday morning, I assisted Dr Britt, a masterful surgeon, in the performance of a left hemicolectomy for an early carcinoma; the patient was a very successful insurance executive. As many who know him understand, Dr Britt is an avid golfer who clearly seems to obtain endorphin benefit from his golf activity. Thursday was his usual afternoon to play golf, but for a consecutive 3 weeks, emergencies or heavy operative load had precluded that opportunity, and he was clearly in a withdrawal mode. We discussed his anticipated golf game and his new Mercedes during an operation. He left the hospital shortly after the patient was taken to the recovery room in stable condition. Soon thereafter, hemodynamic instability occurred with the patient, and I proceeded to evaluate the possible causes, such as cardiac complications. The patient responded partially to a fluid bolus, but within approximately 30 minutes, he was again compromised. At this point, I felt Dr Britt should know of this situation, and I called the golf course, which was 20 miles from the hospital. This was in the era prior to pagers or cell phones, and the starter had to find him on the course. He had completed a few holes of his first round, had to come into the clubhouse to take the call, and was not particularly pleased with my intrusion. He indicated that I should handle things and expressed confidence, not too gently, that the situation would "be alright." Soon thereafter, I began blood transfusions, as well as additional fluid boluses, without adequate results.

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