As perfusionists, at one time or another (if not for the entirety of our careers), most of us will have had the problem of having to explain to lay people what exactly it is that we do for a living. When you’re sitting in the pub, for example, there will eventually come the dreaded moment when it will not be enough for your fellow imbibers to have been made vaguely aware that you work in an operating theatre, and you will be charged with revealing all. It is, of course, a completely pointless exercise. Whether you choose to furnish your inquisitors with a few mumblings about “heart and lungs” and “machines” or whether the ambience of the hostelry has driven you to provide a more comprehensive, even technical, exposition, the words emanating from your companions’ mouths when they next introduce you to a stranger will always be the same: “This is Richard, he’s an anaesthetist.”
On a recent trip to a village in Spain with which I am reasonably familiar, I experienced this problem again, but magnified to the nth degree, when I was approached by a Spaniard who managed to get it through to me that he and his friends wanted to know how “El Ingles” accrued his euros. Given that my amigo spoke no English and that while I can get by in Spanish when dealing with beer, hotels and football, I’m not yet devouring the editorials in El Pais, this was always going to be a difficult one. What was I to do? The easiest route would have been to have palmed him off with something about being a medico, but this came weighed down with the risk of being accosted by every Tomas, Ricardo and Enrique with demands for instant diagnoses for their most recent knee/back/neck pain, coupled with the certainty that my complete ignorance of the nature of their condition would inevitably result in bitter disappointment or worse, fury. On the other hand, an attempt at a more accurate explanation, in Spanglish, had at least a fifty per cent chance of resulting in my Spanish friend going away thinking how interesting brass rubbing must be. Luckily, the word for hospital in Spanish is hospital, and repeating this a few times seemed to sate his curiosity.
So here’s a question that I’m going to throw out to the perfusion community in the hope of making all of our lives a lot easier in the future: What is the easiest, safest, least patronising, least pompous, altogether most satisfactory way to respond when the barman leans over and asks you what you do during the day? After 34 years in the game I still don’t know the answer, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there.
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As this edition was going to press, we heard the sad news of the passing away of Andy Pastellopoulos. Andy was a colossus in the world of perfusion and will be sorely missed by all who knew him. The next edition of Perfusionist will carry a full tribute to Andy’s life and career. We extend our sincerest condolences to Andy’s wife and family.
See the News sectton for details of funeral