Former pro football player finds lots of reasons to return to Cayman
Former professional football player Daaron McField, son of local attorney Steve McField, has scored his ultimate goal – becoming a general surgeon.
“It has been a long, hard road and I am glad to be back home,” Dr. McField, 38, said of his new job as surgeon at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
After swapping his football gear and a career as the first Caymanian to be drafted by a professional Canadian football team, Dr. McField has found his way back home to offer his expertise locally.
To Dr. McField, there is no job more interesting or more rewarding than medicine, and surgery above all.
”There is no greater pleasure than seeing a patient get better, go home and everyone is happy. It is that immediate rewarding gratification of helping someone,” he said.
Dr. McField received a four-year college scholarship from an American firm. After he was turned down for a Cayman Islands government scholarship between 2003 and 2006 to further his medical training, Dr. McField took the initiative in working toward his goal.
“I was told point blank I should not waste my time in medical school but to become a teacher instead because teachers were needed. That was not very encouraging,” Dr. McField recalls. “Every country in the world spends money to train doctors. Medical education is not cheap and it is not something that people can afford to pay for out of their own pocket.”
Ultimately, Dr. McField continued his education and scored 93 percent on the American Board of Surgery exam.
“Getting no assistance made me bitter for a while, but that has passed and I enjoy what I worked hard to achieve. It was hard, very hard. My wife Sarah had to sacrifice a lot, working many jobs, helping with the bills and taking care of the children.”
Although he thought about staying overseas because of other lucrative opportunities in the States, ultimately Dr. McField did not want to give up serving his home country. At the end of the day, he said. it was not just about the size of the paycheck.
“There were lots of reasons to come back to Cayman to try and make a go at it,” he said. When it came to joining the hospital or starting his own practice, being fresh out of training, going to a new place as a new surgeon and having to deal with the new business aspect of things, he said, was just too much and not worth the struggle.
He said his daily routine as a surgeon is quite full, divided between clinic and operating work. After making his daily rounds, Dr. McField heads to the clinic to see patients. If it is an operation day, cases could vary from a hernia repair to the removal of a gall bladder. Then there is follow-up with patients who have been admitted.
“Good days, we get out early, and bad days it’s late; some days we are on call,” he said. For him, the biggest challenge is balancing humility in making judgement calls and having a lot of confidence in the decisions he makes.
“When you are a surgeon, the buck stops with you,” he said. “When there is a complication, you can’t push it off on someone else. It is a very tight rope to have the humility [and] on the other hand, to take advice and at the same time not let your paranoia paralyze you into not making a decision.”
Dr. McField said that, fresh out of training, these are big responsibilities which are life and death situations.
“It is not easy. You have to look in the mirror and be comfortable you are making the right choices and sometimes you are not sure, but when it is done and the patient is OK, it is very rewarding,” he said.
Also gratifying for Dr. McField, in an odd sort of way, is dealing with patients in difficult moments.
“As a surgeon, we have the unpleasant duty of informing patients of some very bad news, such as a bad car accident or a diagnosis of cancer,” he said. “To be there and help them work through it is a privilege. It is a difficult one, but I think people appreciate the effort and time you put into it.”
What he doesn’t like about the job is sometimes having go in at 2 a.m. “There are frustrations, also, like trying to do the best for patients, things moving too slow and getting the best for a patient in a short amount of time,” he said.
To be a doctor, he said, means one must have a lot of faith in himself.
“When you hear of the long hours and time that has to be put into becoming a doctor, it can be pretty discouraging,” he said. “It is very easy to say ‘I can’t do that.’ But you can. It is not for everyone, but you can do it if you really want to. You just have to have faith in yourself.”
Dr. McField said the rewards are worth it if you are willing to stick it out.
“Having someone to say they really know what it is like is a big help,” he said. “There are more Caymanians who have finished medical school, and mentors are a tremendous help to reach out to.”
As for separating the job from personal life, Dr. McField said sometimes you do not.
“Any surgeon who will say they don’t stay up at night worrying about a stitch they placed or a decision they made is lying to you or they are a callous person and don’t care. I take my patients home with me every night,” he said.
“Lying in bed, I think about should I have done that better or this or that. If you talk to my wife, she will tell you I am distracted and bring the work home. But that is the profession I live in. I am a surgeon.”
When Dr. McField is not carrying out duties, he spends time with his children Marcellus, Galen and Mihaila and wife Sarah. In his free time, he likes to exercise, read medical literature and spend quality time with family.