One of the rarest things that we do is think. I don’t know why people don’t do it more often. It doesn’t cost anything. Think about that.
There are questions that I’d like answered. But there aren’t any answers to those questions.
If world leaders were doctors, I think they would be more concerned with the welfare of people. There would be less poverty. There would be medical care for everybody, no matter whether people paid for it or not.
In any good society, every member should be interested in the health of every other member. Because if any member is unhealthy, it’s a burden on the society.
What advice would I give a doctor preparing for surgery? First and foremost, walk into the right operating room. After you’ve got the right room, make sure you’ve got the right patient.
I’ve done more than sixty thousand heart operations. I used to start operating at six in the morning. Sometimes I wouldn’t finish until ten or eleven at night. I’ve been fortunate in that I need very little sleep. I can get along well on four or five hours.
Okra is the key to good gumbo.
I’m not sure I can answer that question specifically. But the operation I did in ‘53 for aneurysm of the thoracic aorta gave me great satisfaction. It had never been done successfully before, and lots of doctors took the position that you shouldn’t try it. You’ve got to push ahead in spite of them. I learned that lesson early.
I don’t think the difference between ninety-nine and a hundred is important.
I scheduled my last operation when I was ninety. I just felt that I’d done enough and should turn it over to my colleagues.
If you had a heart problem right now and needed an operation and I was the only doctor around, sure, I’d do it.
The best lesson my mother taught me involves an orphanage we had in town. Every Sunday after church we would get in the car and drive to the orphanage. Mother would bake bread and cookies, and she would go through our clothes and give the items we’d outgrown to the children at this orphanage. One Sunday, she was putting clothes in the basket and I noticed she had put one of my favorite caps inside. I immediately protested, but she reminded me that I had a new cap. “The child that’s going to get this cap doesn’t have a parent to give him a new cap,” she said, “and you do.” She told me I ought to be glad that I could give up the cap. I never forgot that.
Being compassionate, being concerned for your fellow man, doing everything you can to help people -- that’s the kind of religion I have, and it’s a comforting religion. I don’t get involved in discussions of intelligent design. You can’t answer those questions, so why fool with them?
You can never learn enough.
It’s important for a patient to go into an operation with confidence. The functions of the heart will be abnormal if they go in scared to death.
The worst thing, of course -- and you’re never quite prepared for it -- is when the patient dies during the operation. You die a little every time that happens.
There was a historian in the fourteenth century who wrote a book about what he knew of the world, and for that time it was pretty good. One of the interesting observations he made is that all the tribes that have difficulty feeding themselves are lean and healthy, and those that have plenty of food are fat, lazy, and unhealthy.
People often use words in a loose way that covers over what they’re talking about. I like to choose words that get to the basics.
The doctor who operated on me only a few years ago was one that I trained. I was lucky to have somebody like that.
Never had a symptom. The pain came like a bullet out of the blue. I was alone when it started. My wife and my daughter had gone out. The pain is often described as the worst pain you can have. The pain was so severe that I would have welcomed anything to relieve it -- including death. I wasn’t going to fight it. I look upon death as a part of living, just as some trees lose all their leaves in the winter and have them replaced in the spring. But at the same time, part of me was thinking, What caused this pain? Part of me was doing a diagnosis on myself -- which, as it turned out, was correct. Aortic dissection. I’d written more articles about the condition than anybody in the world, and I resigned myself to having a heart stoppage. The pain didn’t teach me anything about the heart. It simply emphasized what I had already learned.
I was a little surprised to find myself recovering after the surgery. Then gratified to have been given a second life.
During my recovery, I played possum. I pretended to be sleeping and listened to what the doctors standing over my bed were saying about my condition. Then I’d argue with them about the therapy. I’d make them prove that I needed it.
I guess it’s hard to be my doctor.