Destiny… Thy name is Surgery?
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Destiny… Thy name is Surgery?

June 14, 2024

By Dr. H.V. Shivaram, Head, Department of Surgery, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru

There is a message in this article…

Dr. C.G. Narasimhan, well-known Surgeon of our city, forwarded this article about a junior doctor doing his internship in Mysore many years ago and how the then renowned Surgeon of K.R. Hospital Dr. C.B. Murthy saved the intern from losing his right hand from an impending gangrene.

The message is in the title of this article — we are governed by Destiny. That intern doctor has become a famous Surgeon today. —Ed

It was the year 1982, in the month of June, on a Friday evening when I was doing my internship at K.R. Hospital attached to Mysore Medical College. I had my posting at Paediatric Department under Prof. Anke Gowda at Cheluvamba Block.

There was an anaemic child in the ward and I was to get a bottle of blood from the blood bank which was situated behind the Pathology Block. Between these two blocks there was a large vacant space with grass and in the corner there used to be a kitchen where food used to be cooked for the patients. Those were the days when all the menial work used to be the responsibility of the poor “House Surgeon”!

I went to the blood bank, collected the bottle of blood and started walking towards Cheluvamba Block to go to the Paediatric Ward. I was in a hurry and looked at the watch, it was  6 O’clock in the evening. I was thinking that my white coat which I was wearing since a week needed a wash on the weekend.

All of a sudden, a horse which was grazing in the vacant space started chasing me! I was shell shocked and took to my heels to save myself and the blood I was holding in my right hand. To escape from the horse attack I had to enter inside the building. I ran towards Cheluvamba Block with all my youthful strength and energy. But I was not lucky!

The horse was faster than me (naturally)! Just before I could enter Cheluvamba Block, it caught hold of my right lower arm near the elbow with its mouth and started dragging me to the field. Imagine the scenario — me holding the precious blood bottle in my right hand and the horse trying to trample me. I quickly realised that if I fall down I am finished. In the spirit of the moment I gathered all my energy and pushed the horse in the opposite direction holding  its right fore leg.

The only thing in my mind was that I should not fall and the blood bottle should not be broken. It was a fight between me and the horse wherein the horse was trying to push me down and I was defending myself pushing the horse all the way back which was now standing on its hind legs. The pain in my arm was now unbearable and my hand was becoming numb and blue! By this time a large onlooker crowd had gathered around and there was a huge commotion. Many of them threw stones at the horse but the horse was not leaving me.

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I was told it was a pathetic scene to watch. The scenario was like the one from the famous Hindi movie Satte Pe Satta where the hero fights with a horse, lifting both its fore legs. The entire time the horse, standing on its hind legs, was trying to push me and I was holding its fore leg, trying to push it back. The one thing in my favour was that it was a slightly weaker and older horse and did not have full horse power in it (so to speak)!

Dr. H.V. Shivaram Head, Department of Surgery, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru

I was shouting for help. The crowd pelting stones on the horse did not know what else to do. In the bargain I also received some stones! By all means it was a helpless situation. By this time I had gently dropped the blood bottle on the grass and someone took it to the  Paediatric Ward.

Finally it was the presence of mind of an illiterate cook in the neighbouring kitchen which saved the day. He brought a long kitchen knife from his kitchen armamentarium and shoved it into the horse’s anus from behind. The horse felt severe pain and it opened its jaws instantly releasing my damaged and crushed arm.

By that time I was totally exhausted. I happened to glance at my watch and it was 6.20 pm and that’s all I remembered. I fell unconscious the next second, and my friends and fellow doctors who were helplessly watching immediately took me to the emergency department which used to be called as “Casualty.”

I was resuscitated there. My right hand was numb and bluish. When I gained some consciousness I overheard the surgical resident on call discussing over phone with his boss — “Sir there is an intern with a bad crush injury of the right arm due to a horse bite…brachial artery is damaged…he needs above elbow amputation.”

I was shell shocked! I looked at my right hand again and again. I was unable to move it. It was bluish and had no sensation. A dressing was decorating my crushed arm.

Within no time I was shifted to the operation theatre in the stone building. My only hope was that it was the call duty day of Prof. C.B. Murthy’s unit and he may do his best to save my limb. He was the best surgeon of that time in Mysore and we all respected him very much. He graciously came to the OT for this poor intern’s emergency surgery. His plan was to explore the arm under general anaesthesia and check before taking it up for amputation. There was no CT scan or Doppler during those days for pre-operative assessment.

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I was told later that on exploration, Prof. Murthy found that the brachial artery had escaped the teeth bite injury of the horse by a millimetre or so and it had gone into severe spasm due to crush injury. There were deep bite marks on the humerus bone!  Prof. Murthy wanted to do everything possible to save the limb and he was not in a hurry. He tried vasodilator solution papaverine (how lucky I was — it was readily available in the OT!) and waited for some time. A miracle occurred again for the second time (the first miracle came in the form of the cook).

Gradually the brachial artery spasm was relieved and the colour of the cyanosed hand improved. Everyone in the OT heaved a sigh of relief. When I gained my consciousness I was pleasantly surprised that my right hand was alive and pink. Was it destined to do some surgeries in the future? None knew at that point of time. Not even me.

It was such a strange and bizarre incident that it became big news the next morning. Most of the local newspapers carried the news on the front page. “Mad Horse bites the Doc” was the headline. There was a hot discussion in most of the newspapers (thankfully there were no loud TV news channels those days) that there is no security in the hospital premises and the Medical Superintendent was taken to task.

This newspaper coverage gave me a strange kind of publicity and the public started pouring in to see me in the ward. Suddenly I had become a hero who had fought with a horse and survived. The students of Mysore Medical College were agitated and they went on strike asking for proper security in the hospital premises. The administration promptly erected cattle traps in all the gates and also decided to post some security personnel.

I was in the hospital for a fortnight recovering from my injuries and receiving physiotherapy etc. The worst part was to receive 14 injections of those Anti Rabies Vaccine on the abdominal wall !

Luckily I recovered and my hand became fully functional.  And the rest, as they say, is history !

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