Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It Happens

I think I mentioned before that I'm doing an emergency medicine elective right now. Well I got to talking to one of the trauma surgeons and they invited me over to their department for a few surgeries. I've gotten to see some pretty cool stuff and I REALLY enjoy surgery.

Fast forward to this morning after a sleepless night (2 hours to be exact- yay insomnia!) I woke up and realized that I was running late to get out to the hospital in time for morning rounds. So I hurried up got dressed and pretty much ran out the door. Who am I kidding I do this every day! I usually eat breakfast around 10am, so no worries there- I can eat at the hospital.

I made it just in time for the beginning of morning rounds at 6:30 am and got to witness THE PROFESSOR in action. AKA I got to watch everyone follow around an old dude in a white coat while he interrogated them about their patients. One of the nurses wasn't able to get morning lab results for a particular patient due to bad veins and he pretty much chewed her out in front of the entire department and about 4 patients, including the patient in question. The patient started apologizing to the Professor for not being a good stick. People had to leave the room they were laughing so hard. The Professor was NOT happy.

After that, one of the doctors arranged for me to assist with an abdominal surgery with another Professor so I skipped off to the operating theater. I met up with the doctor actually performing the surgery and then with the Professor who I don't think spoke much English. Almost everyone in this department is so nice and dare I say, normal. It's totally ruining the image I have of most surgeons (though I might have just gotten lucky- I have met some crazy surgeons before).

So the operation starts, there are three of us standing around the patient. First the scalpel, then the cauterizer, then more cutting. I have the traditional medical student duty of holding traction while squeezed in between the doctor and the patients arm requiring me to stand sideways while bending in an odd yoga-like position. Finally the doctor and the professor get where we need to and they accidentally sever a vessel. Blood pulsates everywhere. They quickly repair it and continue on their intended mission, I'm still holding traction like a champ. And then finally, the main part of the surgery is complete. They prepare to sew the patient up.

I realize that for the last few minutes I've been in la-la-land. I try to tighten my grip on the traction devices, I can't. I notice that I've started loosing hearing in my ears and that my arms still holding traction feel strange. I take a deep breath, but the mask tied tightly around my face means that my breath makes little difference. I try again. My cognition feels slow, I wait for this feeling to pass. When the vision in my eyes starts to go foggy around the edges, I realize what is going on.

I try to say something to the doctors, I think I said "przepraszam"- but it might have only been in my head.  My hand must have relaxed the grip on the traction because someone said, "Are you okay."
"Nie," why is it that when I'm fainting Polish is the first language to come to mind?

My vision is gone. Someone grabs the back of my scrubs and pulls me backwards away from the operation. They push a stool underneath me. I don't know what happens next.

The anesthesiologist's hand is keeping me in the chair as I revisit the world. She helps me out of my surgical gown and gloves and walks me to the hallway. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just had a moment I guess." A moment- haha right, how about quite possibly the most embarrassing episode of my life. "Sorry," I say.

"Don't worry. It happens."

An hour and one sugary cup of coffee with breakfast later I'm able to walk out of the surgical ward. I'm still shaky, but I don't tell them that when they ask. It takes a few hours for the feeling to completely disappear.

By noon the entire department has heard. News travels fast in this place. On top of that, this entire department like most surgery departments in Poland is all men. I just fulfilled the swooning girl stereotype and I'm sure I'll be reminded of it every time I scrub in.

I know that people faint in operations, it's one of those things, but did it really have to happen to me?

As a side note, I don't think it was the operation itself (the worst parts were over and yesterday I saw someone get their leg amputated- so really?). I think maybe it was lack of sleep combined with not eating breakfast.

What a day!

I guess, "It happens."

Let's just hope it doesn't happen again.

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