Friday, May 20, 2011

Surgical beauty

What can I say? Surgery has left me a little bit speechless. There is something about having your arms elbow-deep in some guys' warm, peristalsing guts during a laparotomy that just changes you for life. This is what I've learned:

I may never feel beautiful again. The other day, I wore these awesome, new, light gray, linen pants that I had paid a slightly discounted price for at Banana Republic, but probably not discounted enough if you know what I mean. Up until this day during the rotation I was feeling a distinct lack of beauty in my life. I mean, how are you supposed to feel beautiful when you are required to don the ridiculous hair net and hideous teal scrubs with distinct yellow lining broadcasting to the entire world that you're a size small? Heaven forbid I ever have to move up to the depressing brown ribbon of "medium."

So it was a rare day neither on-call nor post-call and I made the executive decision to dress up. I wore what I thought were sensible heels. Ecco brand, 2 1/2 inches; because my clogs had seriously started to smell like the Bovie (i.e. the surgical cautery). I had even put on some powder, although I skipped the mascara because the face shield in surgery feels like a sweat lodge. Needless to say, we were just doing a hernia repair and when my resident commented on my poor choice of shoes while we were scrubbing with the nasty yellow iodine and I was somehow getting yellow soap foam in my hair, I remarked that they were more comfortable then they looked. Right? 8 1/2 hours later in those stupid heels, gray pants long wrinkled in the locker room, and without water, food, a chance to pee, plus the distinct knowledge that I was NOT allowed to itch lest I risk being labeled as "that" medical student who has to waste another pair of sterile gloves because she can't keep her darn hands out of trouble...and I was hurting...bad.

6 hours into this hernia repair which actually turned out to be a laparotomy with lysis of adhesions, bowel resection, and THEN a ventral hernia repair (nobody told ME this when they needed a medical student--STAT--to hold retractors) a giant neon blue poster of the pain scale was staring back at me in the OR--the little faces getting more and more sad from 1-10. I recalled my education in these pain matters. I knew full well that "10" was necissarily reserved for femur fractures and childbirth but I was seriously at a 5. I kept rehearshing in my head how I would frame my plee to scrub out as the surgeon was cursing at the giant mesh he was trying to sew into this guy's non-existent abdominal fascia. Oh the agony!!! What was I even doing here at 8:30pm? My biceps were shaking with every passing second of holding those stupid retractors and I thought, "this is hell. It has to be." And without the guts to bring up that I was well past my legal duty hours, I started to silently cry under my sterile garb without anyone noticing.

I came home that night and crumpled on the bed without brushing my teeth trusting my iphone was preset for 4:30am without bothering to check. Said morning came with my feet still throbbing and the worst breakout my skin has seen since high school--compliments of the powder I didn't wash off the night before I'm sure.

And so today, three days later, I can officially cross general surgery off of my list of future careers. And that is your medical school update.