What’s wrong with this picture?
Look closely; make like “a trained observer.”
It’s a helpless feeling.
You are rested, fed, watered and mentally focused. The whistle blows and you are off. The legs respond, air moves through the thorax effortlessly, and here is the best part: there is separation. Yes, you are off the front. Cool. Really cool!
Then without warning the next peddle stroke brings that fateful snap. Oh, the misery of the broken chain. Despite the lightweight carbon fibre and the wizardry of modern components, a bike with a broken chain is useless. This is an instant. Sorry buddy.
Doctoring is like this sometimes. You are educated, experienced and focused. Your intentions are one hundred percent benevolent. Only one person wants the treatment to go better than yourself, the patient.
But like the broken chain that abruptly ruins a seemingly perfect alignment of all meridians, the unexpected bad patient outcome aches the soul of the heavily invested doctor, who wants all to be right, as if flawlessness is actually achievable. As if, with enough effort, will, and righteousness, the randomness of the broken chain can always be avoided.
I guess if every race went without incident, if every treatment was flawless, and success was a given, there would surely be less joy in our triumphs.
As parents of a dejected young bike racer, we will fix the broken chain. He will race again. And surely, there will come triumphs made even sweeter by past experiences of imperfection and misfortune.
As doctors who are rendered distraught by a bad outcome, we will get back in the game and try our best. It is what we do.