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In Conversation with Dr Erich Schürmann

You asked and Dr Erich Schürmann replied… Dr Schürmann is celebrating his 12th year as a Cardiothoracic Surgeon this year. In his replies, to questions you asked, he shares snippets of his heart and mind, his highs and lows and how hurt caused by loss is something that can never be shaken. A father and a husband who carries his patients home with him in his heart and in his mind… even the ones he hasn’t operated on yet. If you could turn back time and start over, would you still become a heart surgeon?

Without a doubt. Despite the long arduous journey to become a cardiac surgeon, the long days and stressful situations, this remains a discipline that keeps you right at the cutting edge of medicine. To be part of a team of people who all in their own way are the best medicine has to offer is a privilege and an honour. Finally to see our patients have favourable outcomes remains priceless and makes it all worth it.

What is the last thought on your mind before you enter theatre?

Before every procedure, a quick overview of the condition, the required repair and possible risks go through my mind. I visualize the repair and ask for assistance from above to make this a reality.

Is it ever easy?

Easy is the wrong word.It's never easy, but it can be comfortable. Comfortable in a sense that the operation flows smoothly and the repair is good.

What are the absolute highs and absolute lows of your profession?

Every successful surgery irrespective of the level of complexity remains addictive. There is nothing more gratifying than informing parents of a favourable outcome, and seeing our patients leave hospital with hope and a brighter future. On the flip side any unfavourable outcome hurts. It hurts a lot. It doesn't matter how complex or how the odds were stacked against us to start with, it remains the ultimate low.

How do you cope and balance your life?

This is the difficult part, and I still haven't figured it out. You can't switch off and forget about your patients when you walk out of the hospital. Your mind never really rests. You are rehashing a previous surgery, worrying about a patient in ICU or planning tomorrow's repair. Hopefully I will find the solution. but for now it is the nature of the beast.

How does it make you feel to see your patients grow up and live a full healthy life?

It gives me a warm feeling in the area occupied by my heart. It remains the ultimate reward. It makes every drop of sweat ,blood and tears worth it. It helps me accept unfavourable outcomes and motivates me to become better and better.


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