Tim Sproule, plastic surgeon -
How tenuous our lives all are. Even with what seems to be the most careful preparation, the human factor can screw things up…There I was, relaxed and confident, looking forward to the next couple of weeks of intensive experience, sleeping in my hotel room at the San Francisco Marriott, dreaming of cleft repairs. The phone rings. It’s Amanda. Great! I wanted to meet her before we left. But why am I so tired? What time is it? Where am I?
Amanda clarifies: ”Tim, we are all waiting for you in order to check in the boxes. When are you coming over?” I look at the clock. 11:45. What? Could I have slept 9 hours straight? I haven’t done that in years! I stumble out that “I will be over in 15 minutes” and throw on my clothes. As I rush out the door of the hotel, I am totally disoriented. It’s still dark. Was Amanda playing a joke on me? Mystified, I rush over to the terminal to meet her. On the way I try to figure out what’s going on. It’s dark out! I ask the cabbie what time it is. He looks at me strangely and says “about midnight.” Midnight? I am totally dumbfounded. As I fumble with my ticket and passport, I try to understand. I look at my ticket, closely this time. And the truth is staring me in the face. The plane leaves at 1:20AM, on April 8th. Not, as I had assumed, 1:20PM on April 8th.
I check through, apologize to Amanda, and then rush on to meet the rest of the team and get on the plane. So how could I be so stupid? My anesthesiologist, pediatrician and nurse friends would say it’s because I am a stupid surgeon, all action and overconfidence and no thought, but I think there were a few factors to be fair.
First, in staid conservative Toronto, planes are never allowed to leave in the middle of the night because of some noise ordinance, so I wasn’t expecting a takeoff at 0120am from San Fran. Second, Interplast had booked a hotel room for me at the airport. “Why would they do that if I wasn’t staying overnight?” I had assumed. Third, and most importantly, I just didn’t look closely at my ticket. You would think that I would know better. I am a fairly experienced traveler, having worked with Interplast for well over 10 years. We are all on such tenuous leashes. As Amanda and I walked through the boarding lounge to our gate, she just happened to check for her boarding passes. Nowhere to be found! We doubled back and found them on the floor just past the X-ray machines. So, the team came close to leaving without either one of its surgeons!!!