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Working up a sweat in an ESCRS wetlab

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CONGRESS REFLECTIONS I might have never learned how to manage phaco complications, if it wasn't for my lack of access to portable black holes. If I had had such a thing, I would have most certainly used it to make myself disappear within minutes of starting my very first wetlab at the ESCRS Winter Meeting. Instead, I just stood there, feeling overwhelmed while my instructor kindly yet urgently enquired whether I had actually even seen a vitrector? And in the same breath: Seriously, who is your trainer? Suffice to say, it wasn't going well. I had opted, with a mix of optimism and naiveté that lands one in these situations, that I would learn how to manage phaco complications. My instructor was an older surgeon with fine-rimmed spectacles over which he peered to scrutinise my every move. He was strict. Fair, but strict. I had passed the point of getting nervous a while ago, and I was starting to sweat a lot more than appropriate for someone who mostly just stood there idly. It's not that I didn't know anything. But somehow the situation got the best of me and words failed me when I needed them. Like when he asked me what instrument I was using right now, and I was left muttering a description of a "sort of flat spoony thing". I glanced at him quickly, and caught him in a wide eye roll. Then, as if he realised this might take a while, he pulled up a chair and gave me an encouraging smile while he said "yes indeed, the flat spoony thing, or a Drysdale manipulator as I tend to call it". I could feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment. How could I forget that? "I'm sorry", I said. "I knew that, but I'm a bit nervous. I haven't actually done this before". "No need to be nervous he said", as he continued to smile at me. "I'll teach you". The following hour flew by. As he broke the techniques down for me step by step, and I progressed in the procedure, my tremors settled I could feel my confidence returning. Before I knew it I was rescuing rhexes and making vitreous behave. I wasn't a master surgeon yet but I felt I had taken a big step forward. I've been using the ESCRS wet labs to make more steps forward ever since. And at this year's ESCRS Winter Meeting, for the very first time, I'll be the instructor hovering over participants like a hawk. There is no better place than a wetlab to climb a few hurdles and conquer a new challenge. But learning new techniques can be intimidating, even in the best of circumstances. So when you're breaking into a sweat under the rigorous stares of your wetlab instructor, remember the old Chinese proverb that says "The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle". So go ahead and work up a sweat in an ESCRS wetlab. It will make you a better surgeon.

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