Series of theme Facing Death – Part 4: Anaesthetist – The Quiet Hero

In the operating room, the anaesthetist always guards at patients’ boundary of life and death. After the surgery, they recover, resuscitate the patient. They were only known if the surgery … has a problem, but when the operation is brilliantly successful, the anaesthetist quietly steps back.

Each anaesthesia case is a heart attack

Everyone knows that anaesthesia is a poison, but most patients still have to use it whenever they lay on the operating table. The person who controls the poison in order to that it can’t harm the patient is an anaesthetist. There is no general formula for every patient, just one mistake costs… a human life: because of a little lack of anaesthesia, the patient would wake up in the middle of the surgery, which could lead to sudden death; a little too much anaesthesia to be used, the patient may never wake up again. Surgical patients do not just use anaesthesia, the anaesthetist is also an orchestra conductor who combines anaesthesia with various chemicals including muscular relaxants, vasoconstrictors, vasodilators … depending on the operation situation for the best efficient one.

During surgery, the anaesthetist monitors all signs of the patient’s survival and whenever there is a problem in the operating procedure, the anaesthetist is always almost on the front line. These risks might be excessive blood loss, acid-base disorders, blood clotting disorder or temperature changes… So if the patient dies during the surgery, the anaesthetist is often being charged first. When the operation is successful, he quietly steps back.

 “I hope to be forgotten”

I have got the chance to meet Dr. Henri Maries in the midst of a sunny afternoon, in a beautiful, clean and luxurious hospital of HCM City: FV Hospital. He is the head of anaesthesiology department here. After 48 years wearing the white blouse, silently rushed in to win back lives for countless patients around the world, Dr. Henri Maries accumulated his own calmness, the unusual one. He smiled serenely when being asked: “Are you sad of the un-appreciation from patients about the role of the anaesthetist?” Quietly he replied: “That is the common sense of life. Actually, I always expect patients to forget me because that means everything is going well.”

Hiding behind the calmness of the French doctor is the deep compassion and the intense engagement. The team of doctors working in the FV’s intensive care unit is very familiar with the fact of an old doctor returning to see the patients in extremely serious cases, even if it is not his tour of duty.

Anaesthesia and resuscitation are two fields that always go side by side. Dr. Henri Maries and his colleagues are also charging of another extremely difficult task. It’s resuscitation. That means taking good care of postoperative and serious case patients. He said he knows how to balance his life and work by himself, but “it’s not easy if you’re a doctor. At night I was startled and wondered if there was any way to make the treatment regimen better.” Then he sees himself as a lucky person to be working at FV Hospital, where “you never have to decide alone”.

Formerly being head of general anaesthesia departments at three major hospitals in France, and holding various positions in medical facilities around the world, Dr. Henri Maries never allowed himself to be subjective. On the contrary, he always relies on collective strength because he knows clearly that the people in front of him are patients. Each one of them has the same important life. Dr. Henri is satisfied that FV Hospital has the tradition of effective team work, where interdisciplinary consultations take place. As a result of that, the patient’s health is assessed in the most comprehensive way to obtain the optimal treatment regimen.

The quality of the staff here is monitored closely by the JCI international medical certification, and I am very pleased with that because we are always working in team, all of us need to be good so that my own tasks can be good, too.

All for the patients

Another important thing that has kept this veteran anaesthetist – the area where the world is lacking of good manners – is the tradition “all for the patients” at FV Hospital. He commented, “In terms of facilities, medical equipment, FV Hospital is as good as some hospitals in France. However, the herein organization, especially in the leadership team, is very dynamic, flexible, and “runs” very quickly if your proposal is beneficial to the patient.” Dr. Henri Maries gives an example. Returning back FV in 2014 after a period of staying in France for family reasons, he wanted to introduce regional ultra-sonar analgesia to relieve postoperative pain for FV.

I have been trained in using this technique in France, so I understand thoroughly its great benefits of helping patients effectively reduce pain in exactly what area they are treated. This method limits the use of harmful painkillers, including morphine.

Giving the suggestion to FV Hospital CEO – Dr. Jean-Marcel Guillon, who is also a talented doctor, he received the nod from this man immediately. After several discussions with the medical director of the hospital, the machines were quickly invested, doctors were immediately sent abroad for getting experiences, training on-site was also deployed simultaneously. Less than 1 year, ultrasound regional ultrasonography is implemented in FV Hospital, contributing to improving the quality of life for patients. With FV, treatment is not just about helping the patient heal. All the doctors of this hospital understand the quality of life of patients, of how important is the whole life ahead!

Do not believe when the patients wish to die!

After 48 years wearing the white blouse to guard at the boundary of life and death, Dr. Henri Maries shared his hardest moment of explaining to the patient’s family that there is no suitable treatment. “I had worked in a transplant center in France, where I used to have to tell patient’s family that their beloved one were brain dead, and then asked their permission for organs donating. I was trained step by step how to present to the family to minimize the shock happening for them as good as possible. But until now, I still see that this reluctant explanation is very difficult… ”

Whenever there still has the only ray of hope, Dr. Henri Maries never gives up. Entering the anaesthesia industry with passion for meticulous science and math formulas, the old doctor now spends most of his time building relationships with patients to become their support, belief and hope in the most ardent fighting hours with the death. “My experience is to not believe when the patient say they want to die. Being in pain or losing hope, too many people want to give up themselves. By then, the role of the doctor is not just providing medication.”

Sparkling joy in his kind-hearted eyes, he showed the photo of a smiling old man sitting in the garden full of golden sunshine and brilliant colors of flowers. “Last year he said he wanted to die”, said Dr. Henri Maries. The old man was an American patient suffering from blood cancer, hospitalized with severe pneumonia, pericarditis effusion, pleural effusion, sometimes his heart had stopped for a moment… Dr. Henri continued: “His wife had sent me this photo. His smile was a reward for our hard days spending of saving his life.”

Yes, the reward for a doctor is very simple, but also great!

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