Operating on a baby’s tiny organs is no problem for Sheffield children’s surgeon Prasad Godbole but give him a flat-pack table to assemble and he’s stumped.
Mr Godbole, a consultant paediatric urologist, stands at an operating table at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and carries out complicated medical procedures on tiny tots to earn his living.
For most of the time he is carrying out routine procedures to mend problems that occur in a child’s body in order to improve their health.
Mr Godbole says he had always wanted to be a children’s surgeon – his father was a surgeon and his grandfather a GP, so it runs in the family.
That said, growing up in India he did flirt with the idea of becoming a Bollywood star but in the end chose a life under the surgery spotlights, rather than those on the stage.
After training in his native India, Mr Godbole then worked at hospitals in London and Birmingham before taking a job as a paediatric surgeon at Sheffield Children’s Hospital in 1993.
He said: “I wanted to look after children as it’s more of a challenge – you look after both the young patient and their family.
“The variation of the age also makes it interesting – one day you can be operating on a newborn baby and the next a 16-year-old.”
For Mr Godbole, the best part of the job is seeing the final result of his work and knowing that he has made someone better. But the job comes with its fair share of challenges too.
“A big clinical challenge can be that younger patients can’t explain what is wrong with them,” said Mr Godbole.
“A big emotional challenge is that sometimes you do have to deliver bad news.
“It’s important to be open and honest with the parents and you must remain professional, but that doesn’t stop me thinking ‘what if that was my child?’ and that can stick with you for a while.
“Knowing you’ve done all you can and have supported the parents to let them know they’re not alone is important.”
Mr Godbole starts at 7am by catching-up on paper work before looking at the day’s surgery schedule and heading to the wards to meet the patients and their parents.
Here he explains the procedure that will be taking place and any possible risks and complications before answering any concerns or questions.
For the younger patients Mr Godbole says it is important to get on to their level and explain things in a way that helps them understand and reduces fear.
So he will tell kidney stones patients that he will be playing a game of Space Invaders and for those that have problems with their water system, he will just be doing a bit of plumbing.
Once his ward duties are complete it is off to theatre to scrub-up for surgery.
The theatre team introduce themselves, announce their roles and carry out necessary checks ahead of the young patient being brought in to be anaesthetised.
They are carrying out an operation to remove a blockage in a two-month-old’s kidney.
Mr Godbole is calm, the atmosphere in theatre is light and upbeat and the tot is peaceful in his unaware state.
The patient’s kidneys are approximately 5cm and the drainage tubes from them that carry urine, are tinier still. This is where the blockage has occurred.
Mr Godbole, assisted by his team, locates the blockage, cuts the tube to remove the blocked area, and neatly sews everything back together.
The procedure takes about 90 minutes and the team does not loose its focus or cool at any point.
Mr Godbole said: “Parents look to you to make their child better and that is ultimately your responsibilty.
“I don’t get nervous because that’s where the training comes in – you just have to keep the patient safe and do the very best you can.”
Several operations later and it is not usual for Mr Godbole to be called into a meeting – as surgeon and clinical director of surgery and clinical care he has both a clinical and managerial role in the hospital.
When these duties are complete it is back to the ward to check on patients or to the office to phone parents at home who have any concerns about their child.
Around 7pm is home time but that doesn’t mean work stops for Mr Godbole. He often carries out further medical research and study at home and has published several academic text books on paediatric urology,
There’s are also nights when he is on call and can be required back in theatre at the drop of a hat.
His passionate and caring approach to his patients and their families is obvious – and it is clear his role goes far beyond a standard nine to five.
“Everyone is good at different things,” said Mr Godbole. “While I can operate on a child I’m useless when it comes to DIY, I can’t even build a flat-pack table.
“There’s no doubt it’s a demanding job, but wouldn’t have it any other way.”