Let me say it right away: the best blog written by a doctor, at least that I’ve ever read, is by a provincial South African general surgeon who calls himself Bongi. He doesn’t write about complex medical policy, and he doesn’t worry too much about appropriate use criteria or whether a patient who needs anticoagulation should get warfarin or Xarelto. Instead, he writes about his astonishing experiences as a front-line surgeon (and, for many years, as a medical trainee) in a country on the border between first and third world medicine.
His stories will blow your head off. One minute you’ll be laughing. The guy is seriously funny, possessing a keen sarcastic wit with an edgy South African accent. But then, suddenly, just when you’re enjoying the antics of his colleagues and countrymen,he’ll turn deadly serious, and leave you breathless or in tears.
Bongi is not just a surgeon. He is an artist, though I suspect he would hate that term. His posts are filled with misspellings and he doesn’t believe in capital letters. Responding to a comment about this on his blog he
i have a job that i do and do seriously. this is a hobby. if it becomes too much effort or too serious i might not enjoy it anymore.
But I don’t entirely believe him. Since he started the blog in 2006 he’s written hundreds of posts (though he’s slowed down lately), and these constitute a serious, sustained effort to work out what it means to be a doctor, and a human being, in a deeply beautiful but entirely screwed-up and dangerous country. Reading the blog it is impossible not to be deeply touched by Bongi’s deep love, but also deep cynicism, for his work and his country.
For anyone interested in medicine and surgery there is a load of fascinating information and detail. But, although Bongi loves– literally and figuratively– to dive right into the guts of a situation– he also always insists on connecting these guts to the larger questions with which we all wrestle (or try to ignore). Bongi discovers that as a surgeon he has a unique and privileged perspective on these larger questions. Here is how he responds to some medical students who express a dislike for surgery, in part because it means dealing with certain, umm, unpleasant conditions: