Tuesday, February 05, 2008
in a previous post i came across as caring and in touch, but sometimes i forget to be this.
i was doing an above knee amputation. my consultant had recently explained a technique whereby one attaches the muscle to the bone stump directly and not just to the membrane around the bone (the periosteum). this required that holes be drilled into the bone which would be the anchor points for the muscle. i had never done this before and was grappling with the drill.
at this point, as serendipity would have it, the small porthole window of the door leading to the scrub room filled with the eager faces of a bunch of youngsters. a theater sister who was taking them around came in and informed me that they were school students that were considering medicine as a career and had come to the hospital on some sort of career day outing. she asked me if i'd mind if they came into theater in groups of two to get a better understanding of what we do.
now, understand, i love surgery. any opportunity i get to promote it i take, so i thought this was a great idea. of course i said yes. the first two came in.
let me take a moment to sketch the scene. i've just removed the leg. the bloody stump is sticking out like some cheap prop in a second rate horror. i'm trying to get the bloody (or should i say blasted) drill to work, so i'm not really doing anything besides getting more frustrated by the moment. the students come in and see this setup. not being overly busy, i ask them where they are from. the first guy says he is from a particularly good rugby school in town that, coincidentally, had just lost the gala match to my old school. even the drill could wait. i asked him about the game and what he had thought. he seemed a bit withdrawn and non responsive. i couldn't understand this. it had been closely contested and although his team had lost, they had played well.
then i noticed that the poor fellow was pale and his eyes seemed to be glazing over. the sister quickly took them out. no more scholars came in after that. i did see the horrified face of one young girl peep in just before they moved on. i think i even saw tears. later i heard that some of them needed to be resused with tea and sugar.
in retrospect i was a bit foolish. not all school children who think they want to be doctors are cut out for the job. and not all doctors are cut out to be surgeons. if i had had the opportunity to go into theater as a school student i'm pretty sure i would have thought, 'cool! he's actually cutting a leg off!! wow!!' but that doesn't mean these particular students are also going to think like that. i actually should have known that it was fairly unlikely that my and the sister's good intentions would have fallen on fertile ground.
p.s i never did get that drill to work.