Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Surgery is Awesome!

My weekend wasn't very exciting, and I didn't get very many of the questions done. At first I wanted to try to do them all myself, but now I realize that it's impossible. Each question takes me like 3-4 hours, and there are 20 of them. So now the students are working on different questions and sharing our answers.

This morning I got up at 5 AM and went on rounds with the fellow at 6 AM. Then we went to the OR. Today was my first day scrubbing in, and it was just amazing. No one yelled at me for my scrubbing technique, and I muddled through getting gowned and gloved with the scrub nurse's help. Our first case was for a patient who needed part of his colon resected. The surgeon hands me the scalpel and tells me to go ahead and make the incision. After hearing stories from my friends at other schools about how all they did was just hold retractors and get pimped, I was not prepared for this. I didn't even know how to hold the thing! So she showed me, and I muddled through that too, albeit with some comments that I was not carving a turkey. I didn't mind her mocking me a little bit though, because it wasn't malicious. Then she hands me the bovie (an electrocautery instrument--see picture) and tells me to cut through the fascia (layers of connective tissue under the skin). So I did that too.

Next, she and the fellow started working on the colon, and she asked me to hold the small intestines out of the way. While I was doing that, I had some time to just observe everything that was going on in the surgical field. I was watching the arteries pulse all over this patient's abdomen. There were big ones and little ones, all pulsing in unison. It was awesome. Then I noticed that the patient's intestines were moving in my hands. I was watching as they were peristalsing (contracting by segments--this is how the intestines move food through down to the colon), and I could actually feel them moving. It was incredible. I don't think I'll ever forget that feeling for the rest of my life. We closed up the patient and I got to do the staples. That was surprisingly easy and fun to do. Using the surgical stapler is not so different from using a regular desk stapler.

By this point, it was 1 PM and I was so hungry that my stomach felt like it was eating itself. The surgeon turns to me and says that she and the fellow are going to start the next case. Was I doing ok? Of course, I wanted to scrub out and go eat lunch more than just about anything, but how could I do that while she and the fellow kept going? There's no crying in surgery! So I told her that oh, no, I was fine to go for another case. Fortunately, the second case went faster, and by 3 PM, the fellow and I had about 5 minutes to run downstairs to the cafeteria and wolf down a sandwich before we went back for the next case. We did four cases in all, and then we went on evening rounds. The surgeon didn't really pimp me in the OR, but she did pimp me a bit on rounds. It wasn't awful though. I knew some of the questions and didn't know some of them. Overall, this was a very long but good day, and surgery is much cooler than I could have possibly imagined.

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