My Heroes In Veterinary Medicine 5
Lasting quotes from Dr. Ralph Henderson:
Chris Young sings a tune called, “I Hear Voices.” There are four quotes I still hear from Dr. Henderson.
One day in student surgery I was performing an ovariohysterectomy, perhaps my third. Dr. Henderson strolled by the surgical table and said, “Randolph, if you don’t quit using your fingers I’m going to take your surgical instruments away from you!” While he, too, recognizes that digits make excellent dissection devices, unless we used our instruments while our professors were there to guide us, we weren’t going to learn proper technique.
On another day my best friend and lab partner, Tom Ray, experienced a slight contamination of a corner of the surgical field. Dr. Henderson saw the error and said, “You don’t have to start over, just be aware of it.”
In a classroom setting Dr. Henderson was teaching us the basics of abdominal exploratory surgery. He told us to recognize now that sometimes exploratory surgery doesn’t provide an instant answer. However, just because one doesn’t see the obvious cause of the patient’s illness doesn’t mean the cause isn’t in one’s hand at some point as we go from organ to organ. “Never leave without a souvenir,” was his admonition. By that he meant that a biopsy of one or more organs could provide the very diagnostic information that wasn’t visible by the naked eye.
Also in a lecture session, Dr. Henderson had taught us about closing surgical incisions in layers: muscle, subcutaneous tissue, then skin. He told us a horror story of an old doctor he had observed closing incisions with a single, through-and-through suture. In a different event in student surgery I asked him, jokingly, whether I could close this patient with a single, through-and-through suture. “Whatever you think you can get away with, Randolph.” Like a mother with eyes in the back of her head, I don’t think anyone ever got a way with anything around Dr. Ralph Henderson.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.