Light moments in midst ofa surgeon’s anxious life


I was more intrigued when a few years later, Mr Oloo sat in front of me with a strange request. ‘I would like my vasa ligated, Doc,’ he said.

Photo credit: John Nyaga | Nation Media Group

A surgeon's life is constantly dogged by death and disease, and mine is no exception. Nevertheless, we do have some light moments and just as well, because otherwise the tensions and tragedies we all endure would send us to an early grave.

Because of their rarity, it is natural for us not only to capture these flashes of humour, but also to savour, cherish and even record the pleasant interludes.

For example, when I was asked to give a talk on the life of a surgeon, I told my listeners of the anguish and agony every surgeon must experience in his line of work. 

But seeing that they were feeling sorry for me, I soon put them out of their misery by sharing some lighter, funnier stories. ‘But there are mitigating factors.’ I added. ‘A surgeon is the only man who can undress a woman and send a fee note to the husband for doing so!’

Also, patients and their escorts often brighten our lives. There was this man who brought his wife to see me the other day. After examining her, I took the man aside and euphemistically announced, ‘I don’t like the way your wife is looking at me.’ He considered what I had just said and replied, ‘I haven’t liked the look of her for years, so you haven’t told me anything new!’


I also recall this other man who rang me one night. ‘I am sorry to bother you at this time of the night, Doc,’ he apologised, ‘but I think my wife has appendicitis.’

Half asleep, I reminded him that I had taken his wife’s inflamed appendix out a couple of years before. ‘Whoever heard of a second appendix?’ I asked him reproachfully.

‘You might not have heard of a second appendix Doc, but surely you have heard of a second wife!’ The man replied, putting me in my place.

Before I took up surgery, I tried my hand at obstetrics and gynaecology.

It was while I was conducting an outpatient clinic in gynaecology that I came face to face with a Chinese lady one day.

She told me that she had been married for six years and had not conceived.

‘Get on the couch madam and I will see what I can do.’ I said with my impeccable bedside manners.

Climbing on the couch reluctantly, she cautioned me. ‘It is only fair to let you know that I do want a Chinese father for my child.’

My experience on the maternity side was more hilarious. I was assisting my boss in the delivery room where a couple of women were in labour. For some reason I had to go into the waiting room where the "expectant" fathers were waiting. Amongst them was a novice whose wife was obviously delivering her first child. Next to him was a seasoned father who was waiting for his eighth child to be born. I saw the "amateur" inch closer to the "professional" and ask in a conspiratorial tone. “How soon after the delivery of a baby can a couple resume normal marital relationship?”

'Depends on whether your wife is in the private room or the general ward!' Replied the voice of experience.

I must mention the case of a man on whom I did a hernia operation. I did it to demonstrate my technique to the trainee surgeons who had flocked to the operating theatre at Kenyatta National Hospital to watch me perform this operation.

They were suitably impressed and all of them accompanied me the next day on the ward round. When I reached the bed of this particular patient, with great aplomb I asked the usual question. ‘How are you feeling this morning, Mr Mungai?’

‘Awful,’ replied Mungai, ‘I have got such a lot of pain in my wound.’

‘That’s very strange,’ I said, ‘I underwent the same operation a few years ago and did not suffer any pain.’

‘Ah,’ replied Mr Mungai. ‘But you had a different surgeon!’

Becoming a gynaecologist

Just before I finally gave up the ambition of becoming a gynaecologist, on my operating list was a Mrs Oloo scheduled to undergo tubal ligation. A few months after the successful sterilisation operation, her husband paid me a dubious compliment. ‘You have put me in a peculiar situation where the factory is working full blast but there is no end product! Mind you,’ he quipped. ‘I am not complaining!”

I was more intrigued when a few years later, Mr Oloo sat in front of me with a strange request. ‘I would like my vasa ligated, Doc,’ he said.

‘But I have already tied your wife’s tubes,’ I reminded him.

‘I know but it is better to be doubly sure,’ Oloo pleaded his case. ‘After all her operation ensures her safety – not mine. I would like a built-in safety valve for myself too.’

Not having come across such a strange request before, I consulted my medical colleagues, my "learned" friends, medical ethics committee and found that there was no bar to sterilising a man even if his wife had had her tubes ligated. I therefore carried out the vasa ligation on Oloo.’

I often met Oloo, thereafter, and he was showing signs of financial prosperity. He was running a beer agency and as the beer consumption rose – so did his bank balance. One day out of the blue he rang me. ‘Doc,’ he said in his warm friendly tone. ‘I want a favour.’ Before I could respond he added. ‘A certain lady will come to inquire about my operation and I hereby give you full authority to divulge all the details to her.’

‘What’s it all about?’ I asked.

‘Please don’t ask me Doc,’ he replied.’ I am in great trouble and you are the only one who can get me off the hook.’

True enough a couple of days later Alice was in my office. She was a very attractive young lady and was dressed to the nines.

‘Yes, what can I do for you, Madam?’ I asked.

‘I understand that Oloo had an operation done by you,’ she said and as I nodded acquiescence, she fired the question. ‘What was it?’

‘Ligation of vasa,’ I replied.

‘And what does that mean?’

‘It means that Oloo cannot father a child.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes. Three months after the operation, a semen analysis was carried out on him and it showed complete absence of sperms.’ I explained.

‘Your quite sure?’

‘Yes, indeed.’ I reiterated. ‘Anyway, what is it all about?’

‘Never mind,’ she said, picking up her elegant handbag from my desk. ‘Thank you for the information.’ Saying so she left.

A couple of days later Oloo was in my office. ‘Thanks Doc,’ he said, 'you really got me out of a jam.’

‘Can you tell me what it is all about?’ I repeated my question trying to decipher the mystery.

‘Well, you know,’ he explained,’ man by nature is a polygamous animal and likes a fling now and then. So this young lady lured me up the garden path and when I fell in her clutches, she threatened to invoke the Affiliation Act and claim a big sum for herself and the unborn child. When she told me of her plan, I came out clean and told her that I could not be the father, because I had undergone an operation. She wouldn’t believe me so I told her to find out.’

‘I am sorry for the woman,’ I said.

Brushing aside my commiseration, Oloo replied. ‘Don't be sorry for her Doc. She saw my lucrative business and wanted to take me for a ride. But who is smarter now? Remember Doc what I told you? Thank God I insisted on a safety valve for myself. By the way, thank you also for giving me an invisible scar!' He complimented me as he got up to go.


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