Lessons in Life
As Taught by the Cath Lab
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There is no greater teacher of life than the practice of medicine but none greater than the place where life and death are often most precariously balanced. Having only been in the cardiac catheterization laboratory for a few months as a general cardiology fellow, I have already been taught a lot. These lessons resonate far beyond the opaque, windowless confines of the laboratory and apply to us as physicians and human beings regardless of occupation.
The catheterization laboratory has taught me that everything we do has consequences. In the laboratory, 1 errant movement, 1 lapse of concentration, 1 hint of frustration or fatigue can weigh one down like a lifetime of lead. Recently, I briefly advanced an 0.035-inch guidewire into a coronary artery rather than the safe embrace of the sinuses of Valsalva. Although no damage was done, because I rapidly pulled back the wire, those were some of the longest seconds of my life. The attending rightly took over the procedure immediately. The experienced technician standing next to me whispered, “It’s okay.”
Not all consequences we witness are adverse. In fact, the catheterization laboratory is a reminder …