6.12.1913  -  12.12.2002

Books of N.M.Amosov

Diary. November, 26, Evening

Here I'm going to interrupt my recollections. Life does not allow us to submerge ourselves in the past. It keeps us in the present, holding fast to us and pressing urgent tasks upon us every minute.

I came home at seven, depressed and cross with the entire world... I had dinner (the stomach reminds one of itself no matter what) and went to bed, but I didn't get a wink of sleep. I forced myself to the desk to tell paper and other people what had happened but didn't feel like writing at all.

Complications again. Six or seven successful operations calmed me down and gave me the feeling everything had changed and was going well, but then again...

I had to operate on a serious case with aortal valvular disease and finally cancelled the operation: I didn't have sufficient strength. (The patient is a man of fifty-six. His daughter and son — young people — visited him today. I recalled their faces and cancelled the operation.)

I have a strong desire to give up surgery and to go to the Institute of Cybernetics where I can communicate with people, think and write...

The next day.

The ball keeps rolling. At the morning conference, we discussed the cases to be operated on that day and heard reports about the- previous day's operations, the night report, and the autopsy report if there were any postmortems, of course. There were also many routine, chiefly unpleasant matters on the agenda — e.g., the fourth-floor nurse came to work drunk, and the patients refused to have their injections, because they were afraid of being poisoned. Complaints addressed to the head engineer: the staff of the intensive care unit had been trying for five months to get a fawcet fixed. It was extremely hot in one of the theatres — Zoya, the doctor who is in charge of operating rooms, never checks her province. ("There are other, more important things to do.")

Every day brings new problems: the sewerage got blocked, for instance. It took the plumbers half a day to fix it (from the pipes, they extracted rags, bits of test tubes, watermelon peels, and other rubbish). In some premises it is hot, in others, the radiators are cold and the relatives bring electric heaters, increasing the risk of a fire. The nurses, who are living illegally on the fifth floor because there is no other place to put them while they are waiting for a place in the dormitory have been visited again by their noisy boyfriends. Bacteriological cultures in the new operating room are bad; that means it wasn't cleaned properly An orderly hasn't shown up. All the extension cords have been stolen from the purulent surgery dressing room. Or another case: an acute shortage of oxygen at night and as a result, we barely managed to keep the patients on artificial respiration alive. But most frequent are complaints about shortages of antibiotics, strophanthine, heparin, etc.

For fifty years, I have been presiding at morning conferences. They started at the power plant when I was only eighteen. I was not afraid to say unpleasant things openly, even laying it on thick. Nevertheless, it is very important to observe caution and balace one's words so as not to humiliate other people or insult their sense of dignity. One should be more demanding of oneself and speak in stricter terms about one's own errors and mistakes than those of other people. How good it is when people have courage to apologize publicly when an error is committed!

Alas... There is another unpleasant rule for leaders and managers: they must maintain their distance in personal relations. I mastered this rule only in the course of lengthy and bitter experience. Bitter because there are nice people whose friendship will lower your standands and inevitably cause offense. So it's better to be on the safe side: Seek and find your friends outside the office. Well, exceptions from this rule are possible, but only for very good people, indeed. Or when the job is not very intense, as in our department of cybernetics, for instance. Patients are not dying there, errors and even negligence cost so little in comparison with life. Therefore, I occassionally visit the staff members of my department there.