Monday, July 30, 2012

Surgery with Friends

*All names in this story have been changed, I do not in fact know anyone with the name of Joe Shmoe.

So especially towards the end of the rotation, myself and the other med students on my team sometimes opted to scrub in on the shorter rather than the longer cases when there was a choice (thyroidectomy? sign me up!) - not because we were slackers (ok, a little because we were slackers), but because we were starting to get stressed about our surgery shelf exam and wanted that extra time to be in the library studying.

literally could be anyone
But on the last day of our rotation, I decided to scrub into the more complicated GI case knowing it was maybe the last chance I would get to watch a surgery (ever???).  The case ended up being even more complicated than expected, so the attending surgeon wanted another attending with him rather than only the resident (and me, but med students don't count in the being helpful department during surgery).  So who walks into the OR but one of my parents' closest friends, and someone I've known literally since I was born. 

He obviously did not notice me, as he was there to help with the case, and went immediately to the open body in front of him.  Plus I'm in a gown, face mask, and shower cap - no one exactly looks like themselves in the OR.

it was him the whole time!
I was so excited to see him - I wasn't expecting to be in on any cases with him since he usually doesn't operate at the hospital where my rotation was.  But how to let him know it was me since he clearly didn't see me?  Talk about inner turmoil!!  I wasn't going to interrupt the two surgeons discussing the case to be like "Hi, Joe, it's me, Elena!" but at the same time, I couldn't stand there silent for the whole hours-long surgery and at the end rip off my mask and shower cap and say, "Ha-ha, I've been here the whole time!"

So they're operating away, and I'm retracting away, and the chief resident is standing to the side looking sullen because his surgery was stolen, and every time there was a silence I opened my mouth to announce myself, but then chickened out and didn't say anything.  Was it silent because they were concentrating, and if I spoke the patient would die, or was it actually a good time to interject?  I started and stopped myself at least a good five times.  The more time that went by, the more awkward I felt, because the longer it went on, the weirder it was for me to not say anything.

The biggest problem, besides timing, was how to phrase the sentence.  Everyone in the room obviously called him Dr. Shmoe, but I have never once in my life called him anything but Joe.  So would it be weirder to call him Joe and have everyone in the room be like uh, who does this med student think she is?  Or weirder to be overly formal?  I KNOW, serious problems right?

Finally both the attending surgeons stepped back as a third surgeon went in to do her thing (there were some non-GI components to the surgery, so another specialist was there to deal with those).  So finally I had my opportunity, and I said, "Hi Joe, I didn't want to interrupt before but it's Elena."  And then I could finally stop feeling awkward, and the inside of my head could stop exploding, and the rest of the surgery was great.  The best part was that the first thing he said to me was, "How's your car doing?"  because not that I think my chief resident would ever think I lied about that, but it's always good to have proof that I didn't.

some of the things I got to see

The real best part was getting to see him operate.  Surgery continues to awe and amaze me, and it was very cool to see someone I know from such a different, non-surgical setting to actually perform surgery.  And the case lent itself to good teaching - he was able to point out a lot of structures to me which I hadn't really gotten a good look at in any other surgeries I had seen.  Even after he left the room, the other GI surgeon continued to teach much more than he had at the beginning.  It also ended up just being a really interesting case, and even though it lasted 5+ hours, I'm glad I got to watch it.  A really awesome last day of surgery.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your presence in the OR. You have come such a long way since your birth!! I am so proud of you.
    Dr. Joe Schmoe