Friday, May 26, 2017

a legacy

Dr Abdul Latif Abdul Hamid. The first time I heard of his name was when I first got posted in Negri Sembilan. "You'll be somewhat lucky somewhat unlucky if you get to learn from him. The best orthognatic surgeon. Fierce and fearsome but magical hands", one of my lecturers said to me.

I never thought of applying to be posted at this department. As I had said, it has always been a dream of mine to become an oral maxillofacial surgeon one day. As a dark chapter in my life came to an end, suddenly there's an opening at the department.

Heard a lot of horror stories about this place. Like how terrifying it is to be on call there. Like how anxious my nights would be if I were to work there, but the thought of learning from the one of the best surgeons in Malaysia was too tempting, so here I am.

Learning under his guidance was not easy. "ARE YOU BLIND??", "Gosh, what a bizarre thing to do", "Look, look, don't try to confuse me. Yes or no? Simple question!", are among words that would sputter out of his mouth. I reminisce being yelled at by him many times in a row in one morning, that I looked at the clock, ran into the janitor room, and cried for two good minutes. Looked at my watch, wiped tears off my cheek, and went straight to my surgery cubicle, continued treating patients. "I've got a lot to learn. Be humble and learn from the best while you still have the time", I said to myself. That was the only time I cried and that's it.

Put aside my ego and learned from him as much as I could. Everytime he encounters any challenges, he would stay composed, walk calmly but swiftly, examine the situation, and do his magic. Give him any trauma case. Be it a few weeks had passed, when he fixes patients' broken jaws, they look as good as new.

A very professional person, you would not witness him degrading a staff nurse in an operation theater for not knowing which instrument to hand him when being asked, because he knows she is not trained dentally... but if he thinks you should know your stuff but you don't, then you'd wish you're dead.

He tolerates no bullshit, but beyond working hours, he is a very warm person. Like how nerve-wrecking it was when I asked to take a photo with him. He smiled and said, "Why not?". After that, he said to me, "So you're gonna write, 'This is the guy who fires me endlessly'?", and laughed. When I asked him to take a selfie with us, officers, he actually crouched a bit and joked, "So I guess I should do this so it looks better in the selfie, huh?". When you bump into him as you walk through a door, it's always 'ladies first' for him and he would let you through first.

It is from his teachings that I eventually learned to do surgical removal of impacted teeth in less than 15minutes. It is from his teachings that I figured out that no matter how shitty a case is, keep calm, assess, and fix everything up. Be patient. Do not rush. Don't be heroic. Be practical and evidence-based.

Boss, it has been an honour to have served alongside you. I wish I had applied sooner to be posted here, eventhough that'd be the interval that you were fiercer than now. I will try my best not to put your name to shame.

I really wish I'd be given more time to learn from him. And for this reason, my tears trickle again.

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