The boy who needed surgery

In Summary
  • We’ve been conditioned to think of some things in a certain way.
  • But things are not always what they seem. 


There’s a riddle about a boy who went fishing with his father. Like me, the old man was in the medical profession. An ER surgeon. Though they only managed to pull an old boot out of the lake, the pair had fun on their outing. But on their way home, their vehicle hit a pothole, flew a few feet into the air before rolling over several times and bursting into flames.

Good Samaritans pulled father and son out of the burning wreck. Unfortunately, the father was dead, and the boy had several broken bones. He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and sent straight to the operating room. The surgeon came out in scrubs, saw the boy and did a doubletake.

“I can’t operate on this boy,” said the surgeon. “He’s my son.”

How was this possible?

As you mull over the brainteaser, I’ll make a quick confession. I’ve been accused – and on more than one occasion, no less – of being married to my job. To some, it’s just a way of reminding me there’s more to the world than my patients. To others, it’s a way of saying they think as a doctor I act too highfalutin to engage in such a humanely mundane rite as marriage to a mere commoner. (I believe by commoner they mean someone outside the medical profession.)

At first, I thought people were being mean on purpose, then I realised it all comes down to nurture. We’ve been conditioned to think of some things in a certain way. Dinosaurs are extinct? Nope. Birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Remember learning of only three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas? Now we know that beyond our atmosphere, there’s a fourth state – plasma – and it might be the most common in the universe. Oh, and for a successful doctor to shun marriage, pride avails as the most likely culprit.

Things are not always what they seem. Which reminds me of our little enigma about the boy who needed surgery. The reason the surgeon couldn’t operate, is that the surgeon was indeed the boy’s parent. His mother! Yap! Both parents were surgeons.

So, no. Marriage isn’t only for “commoners.”

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