The surgeon’s hands

The neurosurgeon disinfects his gloved hands as he prepares for the surgical procedure. He has done this so many times – he has operated on countless patients, seen this scenario so many times before him. The team – his team – all dressed in green, the patient in deep slumber lying on the operating table; the preparation, and then the first cut and all he concentrates on is his purpose, his superior purpose of helping God make someone, who is desperately ill, well again. Today as he looks at the young woman – no more than a girl, in truth – lying there he knows he will do whatever it takes to allow her to have her life back, the happy life that was so cruelly, so violently shaken, only a week before.



The nightmare began when the phone rang in the night and her daughter’s boyfriend shocked voice on the other side asked them to come, to help – her daughter was having a seizure, and he didn’t know what to do. An ambulance was called, and she was taken to hospital. Overwhelmed by the quickness of it all, she and her husband were dumbfounded as they heard the result of the scan: a brain tumour.


Just the other day I read an amazingly accurate sentence that said “motherhood is a woman divided into pieces; pieces of herself that live outside her body”, and any woman who is a mother will recognise this as true. The fact is, you suffer more for those pieces outside your body than for those which are actually inside, and for a moment this mother foundered, surrendered; it was as if all her strength had been sucked  from her body and she felt she would die of pain. An unbearable pain, greater than any pain she had ever felt in her life, a pain that she thought would tear her apart.


But then that motherly instinct prevailed. A small light began to timidly shine where only darkness had reigned; strength began to grow, slowly at first but becoming stronger and stronger with each passing moment; a frail thread of hope installed itself and that strongest of all instincts, the most protective of all, took over and she knew she would fight, she simply had to fight for her daughter, fight beside her, support her at all times, give her all the strength she needed to face her ordeal. And she smiled, and pretended she was strong, and laughed and told jokes to make her daughter laugh. And in the evenings, when she left the hospital and went home, she broke down and let the flood of tears run down her face,  an ocean of sorrows.



The first days of uncertainty were the worst. The results of the MRI were encouraging: the tumour could be extracted, and it was not cancer – how she thanked God for that relief! She knew her daughter was in capable hands, the best, and the owner of these hands told her the prognosis was good. A brain operation is always a delicate procedure, but he told her he believed all would go well. And in her turn, she believed him, and held on to her faith, that faith that had sustained throughout all her life, throughout her own ordeal three years before, the battle against breast cancer that she had so valiantly fought – and won.


And now, as inside the operating theatre the surgeon’s hands deftly pursue their healing purpose, outside the mother and the father, husband and wife for more than thirty years, a happy, loving couple, are united in this most difficult moment of their lives as they have been in so many others, more good than bad fortunately. Hand in hand, squeezing each other’s hand in fact, tears silently rolling down their faces they stare into space, and inside their hearts they pray, they pray together for God to guide the surgeon’s hands and bring back their daughter, safe and sound, whole again, so that she may live out the future ahead of her. Yes, they pray, and they have faith, and they believe happiness will come back to their lives; they believe they will go forward with their plans to go to New York where the girl’s boyfriend was planning to get the family together and ask for her hand in marriage on top of the Empire State building – literally on top of the world!



It is noon now. The morning – a long morning by all accounts– has passed. His task is finally over. He takes off his gloves and heads for the door. Out on the corridor he looks for the girl’s parents and sees them sitting on a bench. They jump from  their seats as they glimpse him in the distance. He gives them his broadest smile and as they realize all has gone well he can see their expression changing, from anxiety and fear to hope, and then an intense relief, and he thinks there is no better prize than this one, working to make people happy again, to give them back their lives. He will soon be telling them all is well, that he has been able to remove the whole tumour, that now she will only have to recover, that she will be able to go home in a few days and resume her life. As if this nightmare had never happened. He utters a silent prayer of gratitude. They will have their  daughter back, for this day, as many times before – fortunately – once again,  God has guided his surgeon’s hands and allowed them to perform yet another miracle.

My choice

A story of courage

My melancholic friend

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