La Vie en Rose

When we got into medical school a kind and optimistic professor with a penchant for French phrases said in congratulation – Your future will be “ La vie en rose”- A rosy life.

So here we were, a gaggle of bright eyed medical students doing our first day orientation at Seth G.S. Medical School, Bombay, all of us wannabe doctors strutting around, secretly convinced that making into medical school was half the battle.

I do not remember who was it that had the bright idea to take us to observe surgery on our first day. They probably did not quite know what to do with us, after the introductory tour and talk, so here we were being led up the narrow staircase, past the howling laboratory canines in the animal house, to the observation gallery overlooking the operating room of none other than Dr. P. K. Sen the stalwart of cardio vascular surgery who went on to perform the first heart transplant in India.

I remember the thrill and excitement of gazing down through the glass panes and seeing what we thought was the beating heart of the patient on the OR table. I recollect someone in the OR at the head of the table, probably the anesthesiologist, surveying the mass of young heads hovering overhead, gesturing to Dr. Sen who moved over slightly allowing us a better view. Before our rapturous young eyes the drama of surgery unfolded and we were instantaneous converts to this specialty.

Wide eyed with wonder we watched on and then we heard a crash and then some commotion within our ranks. A strapping young would-be doctor had fainted at the sight of blood and now there was a red stream spurting from his scalp where he had hit the edge of the bench. Someone rushed in and led him away. There was almost more heme on the floor next to us than in the OR below.

That was how our “vie en rose” started; with all the blood loss that we witnessed it was more like “la vie en rouge”. But after all these years, and in the midst of all our present medical travails, I often think of that first day and feel that shiver of excitement run down my spine as we watched that operation by Dr. Sen, and thereby reaffirm my faith in my chosen career.

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