by | May 13, 2021



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A Catastrophic Surgical Complication

About 18 months ago, I was doing a hemilaminectomy on a dog which walked into clinic with pain and ataxia. I found a large disc rupture on the CT scan and took it straight to surgery. I have done over 2000 hemilaminectomies and they are quite literally my dog spey. I had completely decompressed the spinal cord and was ready to close when I decided to burr just a bit more below the cord. The burr bit into the fibrous disc, skipped and impacted the spinal cord. The dog never walked again.

“Now in a dream, our mind continuously does this… We create and perceive the world simultaneously… and our mind does it so well that we don’t even know it’s happening.” Leonardo DeCaprio in the film Inception

In a dream, you can hear, see, smell, taste and touch. 100% of that world is fabricated by your own mind. Take a minute – right now and listen. Listen to the hum of the heater. Smell the remnants of food that is on your plate. Look at the lights, the walls. Feel the pressure of the seat against your backside, the texture of the cloth against your skin. Taste the memories of food that was in your mouth.

100% of those sensations – your entire existence at this moment is a fabrication of your mind.

Your experience of reality is literally created from your mind receiving input from your senses. Your senses provide raw data for you brain to create a model of “what must be out there” for you to be receiving this input. This is our consciousness.

What you see is fabricated.

If you close your eyes, what you remember is fabricated.

What you plan for the future is fabricated.

Your perceptual experience is 100% in your head. 100% of your reality is in YOUR head.

I remember a travel ad that showed a man fording a river, soaking wet, carrying his backpack high over his head. The caption was that this experience could be a nightmare or a dream vacation depending on the person. Two different people could be in exactly the same situation but each could experience it in a totally different way.

How many of you have had an argument with a family member, a partner or a colleague and stewed about it for the next 24 to 48 hours. You realise that it is totally non-productive but you can’t seem to break that cycle. You feel sadness, stress, anxiety, dread. All of those emotions are 100% created in your head.

That is what is called contaminated thinking.

Imagine your capacity for productivity if you didn’t have contaminated thinking (for the older people, think Spock from Star Trek or for the new graduated, think Sheldon from Big Bang Theory)

Clarity is the recognition that your experience is 100% fabricated in your mind and that you can use clarity to eliminate contaminated thinking.

Clarity equals capacity minus contaminated thinking.

Clarity equals capacity minus contaminated thinking.

I still find my self in situations like this – I do a surgical procedure and the outcome is suboptimal. Maybe I have a postoperative infection. Maybe a tumour recurs. Maybe a patient dies. My mind starts racing. What did I do wrong? How could I have done things differently? Are my coworkers judging me? Are the clients angry with me?

I stew around in that vicious cycle for a couple of days and eventually, I remember this concept of clarity – the recognition that 100% of my emotions are generated in my brain. These emotions DON’T exist outside of my brain. That recognition and the clarity of thought that comes from that recognition is liberating and powerful. It allows me to be objective about what happened and what I should do about it and how I can avoid it in the future. It allows my brain to rest and to make a plan. It stops me from wasting time on the hamster wheel, it reduces my stress and it allows me to come up with a reasonable solution.

You will undoubtedly find yourself in similar situations in the coming months and years. How you react to those situations will dictate how much time your waste and how quickly you come up with a solution. When it happens, talk to coworkers, family or friends. I can promise you that I have made the same mistake you have or know someone close to me who has.

When I finished the hemilaminectomy, I was gutted. I immediately called the owner who was almost painfully understanding. I climbed onto the hamster wheel and ran for about 3-4 days. Sometimes, it can be really hard to have “Clarity.” It is a muscle that needs regular exercise.

Take a moment to remember “It’s all in your head”