In 1973, when Dr Liselotte Mettler travelled with her senior, Dr Kurt Semm, to Mumbai for one of the first endoscopic surgeries (keyhole surgery) in India at Breach Candy Hospital, no one knew that she had never performed a laproscopy surgery before.
At the time, after having working with Dr Semm for two years, Dr Mettler had only gained access to peeping through the endoscope.
“When we reached the operation theatre, with the patient anaesthesised, Dr Semm got upset that the endoscope given to him was too big and walked out. Everyone looked at me, and I simply performed my first endoscopic surgery then,” said Dr Mettler, former head of the gynecological endoscopy department in the University of Kiel, Germany.
Dr Mettler is in India to address a conference related to endoscopy in Pune.
Her first endoscocpic surgery finds a mention in the book – Long Long Ago – co-authored by Dr Mettler and her husband, Elwin Wallace Law. The book traces her career working under Dr Semm, the pioneer of endoscopic surgery in the world, and her recent marriage to Law at the age of 70.
Dr Semm and Dr Mettler pioneered endoscopic surgeries in Germany at a time when other doctors ridiculed their idea of peeping into a patient through an endoscope.
“The government forced Dr Semm to undergo a CT-scan to check if he was mad. Eventually people accepted this form of surgery and understood that it’s better for the patient,” said Dr Mettler. Now, endocsopy is an established practice and an endoscope fitted with camera can be inserted in to patient’s body and the video can be relayed onto a screen, which works as a guide.
Dr Mettler’s students include, Dr Prashant Mangeshikar, a Mumbai-based leading endoscopic surgeon.