White walls. A green table. Harsh lights all around me. This is what I look at every day as an orthopedic surgeon. I have been in this exact room operating for 30 years. I am preparing for my next surgery. This morning I have a knee arthroscopy and meniscectomy scheduled. It’s a basic procedure, I’ve done thousands in my career. I could do it in my sleep.
My patient is lovely. She’s a woman in her mid 30’s, with a husband and beautiful family. It makes me sad to see them. I am 73 years old, no family, no husband, no children. I am all alone. My whole life since college has been dedicated to my career as a top-ranking board certified surgeon. People fly across the country to have me operate on them. I have skill and experience. Throughout my whole career, I have made many accomplishments. I am the only woman in my field at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. In fact, I’m head of the Orthopedic Surgery department; in charge of all the men. I have been featured in medical journals and have gotten my own research grants. I save people’s lives everyday. I have won awards for my invention of new surgical procedures and am ranked as one of the best surgeons in my field.
Despite all of these achievements, I am lonely. Eight years of school and six as a resident and fellow in a hospital have held me back. I am dedicated. I committed my whole entire life to my job. I have dated here and there but it never worked out due to my busy schedule. As a training resident, I was at the hospital 24/7; never stopping. I was focused and my mind was set on learning everything I possibly needed to reach success. I made some friends during my training, but as a surgeon I have always tended to be distant when it comes to personal relationships outside of the hospital.
As a child, I had a dream. I would grow up and have a small job, get married, and have kids. I would have a big house with a dog and my children would be running around in the backyard. I would have found the love of my life and we would grow old together and be happier than anyone else in the world. Now, as a 73 year old adult living in a city apartment with no backyard and no pet, I feel regret. On top of the fact that there is no backyard and no pet, I have no children and have not met the love of my life. Instead of growing old with someone, I’ve grown old with myself and myself only. My patient’s children are sweet. I can’t visit her hospital room without seeing them and wishing I had kids of my own. I can’t help but think that I shouldn’t have been so focused on my career. I do not regret my job or the barriers I have broken down and the things I have achieved, I just wish I made more time for life outside of the hospital. This city gets lonely, sometime I sleep at the hospital just so I do not have to go to that big apartment all alone. I can’t stand waking up and being by myself.
I am woken up from my deep thoughts because of the interns bringing in my patient. I see the anesthesiologist put her under and the scrub nurses start prepping the surgical tools. I begin scrubbing in for the same procedure I have done countless times. My life is routine. Once I am done with this, I will have another, and another. I know my thoughts and regrets will haunt me forever, and that this is something I will just have to live with.