When sanity threatens to drown in a pool made of my own tears
I cling to poetry
As though to a raft
With the fierceness of a woman
About to die
I cling to it
With the softness of a woman tending to a mortal wound
This is the story of how I got to see my first surgery.
Uncharacteristically, and flagrantly flouting my college’s tradition, my friends and I are running towards the Surgery Department immediately after the theory classes get over. The Unit that we’ve been posted is in charge of the Operation Theatres (OT) today, and we are determined to barge in into one, whatever it takes. The chances that a bunch of second years like us, (‘barely out of med school diapers’ as a friend put it) are going to be allowed in were pretty slim, but we’d found out on the last OT day that our Unit people could be tricked into not minding.
10: 20 a.m:
Thanks to a resident who is too busy to give a damn, we gain permission.
“Scrub in and go inside”
“Anywhere you want, but two people per OT”
Scrubs: Face-mask, head-cap, loose-fitting top, lo(o)ser-fitting pants – all in green, and Hawaii chappals. (The last two would come undone later, right in the middle of the surgery.)
One tantrum by my friend A later, (“I’m not wearing this stupid dress!”) we’re about to enter the hallowed corridor when our Unit’s Assistant Professor catches us. Thankfully, he only wants to awaken us to the deeper meaning of the OT Uniform. Umm, okay.
10: 35 a.m
In the Major OT corridor, unsure of which door leads to which OT. Finally the other two venture into one of the rooms, and vanish behind a door. A and I (as bunking partners, it’s natural that we’re stuck with each other) tiptoe into what looks like mid-way room. An OT nurse goes,
“Chumma comedy pannadhe! Endha OT?”
Mutely, we point in the opposite direction to where the other two went.
We’re hooked. Slightly clueless, but hooked.
We’ve been standing at the tail-end of the Operation table for the past hour, carrying out urgent conversations in hushed tones. It feels more like ten nervous minutes. In the meanwhile, we’ve found out that:
1. Our Unit’s Chief and two Senior Residents are operating. To watch the man’s hands move over the patient’s body, cutting, coagulating, ligating and probing…is like watching music.
2. The operation is a Retroperitoneal Mass Incision. (Taking out a tumour-thingy from the back part of the body cavity, roughly.)
‘Laparatomy & Proceed’, reads the chart on the wall. A sends me out to google ‘Laparatomy’ just in case somebody decides to conduct a viva during the operation.
3. Nobody notices us, but two girls standing at the tail-end of the table are automatically assumed to be B.Sc Nursing students.
4. I don’t hate the sight of blood, shattering a long-time misconception. In fact, blood is sexy. Er.
Also, we’ve seen a real, live Colon. Underneath it, is the tumour that’s being resected. Did I say tumour? A red, throbbing, over-sized basketball is more like it. A vehemently disagrees, saying It’s Not What You Think.
We don’t know why they are cutting everywhere except around the tumour. They’ve been ligating something that looks like Mesentry for a long time. Words like ‘Gerota Fascia’ float around, making me guilt over all the Anatomy that’s evaporated out of my head.
We seem to have gravitated to the head-end somehow, in the process of making way for the surgeons who keep popping in and out.
We’ve singled out the sound of each machine in the OT. The surgeons seem to be using electric scalpels and scissors instead of the manual ones we used in Dissection. They’re very cool, except for the occasional stench of burnt flesh that wafts our way.
I usually get hyper when I’m inside a bookstore, but this endorphin rush is unbelievable.
I’ve managed to perform several important tasks like switching the airconditioner off (the patient had hypothermia. Ooh!), calling the nurses for help, etc. The high point is when one of the anesthetists ask A to stop a drip. Neither of us know how to. Ohgoshohgosh what if we kill this patient by doing this wrong!
After some frantic messaging to our batchmates, we decide to bunk the afternoon practicals, our first Pharmacology one. One look at that lovely tumour waiting to come out is enough to make up our minds.
The operation in the other OT is over, and the residents are crowding in, completely obstructing whatever little view I had. While I’m inwardly cursing my height (or the lack of it), the anesthetists bunch decide to get some entertainment out of us…
Why is everybody suddenly worried about us missing lunch and the afternoon class?
And we patiently explain to them: No, it’s not PSM in the afternoon; No, we’re not going to get proxied; No, we’re not local dhaadhas just because we hail from this town; No, we don’t mind missing lunch; No, we’re not getting out until this tumour does; and No, I didn’t point out that leaking drip to you only because it was irritating me.
You have to try harder to chuck us out of our first surgery.
It’s been very long. I wouldn’t say we’re bored, but we seriously wish we knew some shit about what’s going on. We start placing bets as to when the tumour will come out. I say 3, and A says 3:30.
3: 00 p.m
It’s OUT! My cuddly, red, cutie-pie tumour is out! A PG starts taking pics with it, we desperately wish we could too. (We later got the pic Bluetoothed, and it ended up as my mobile’s wallpaper) It’s time for us to leave, but we just can’t, yet. A drain is inserted beautifully into the patient’s abdomen, and the suturing begins.
We watch longingly, and when it’s half done, we bolt before too many questions are asked.
3: 15 p.m:
Mad clicking of pictures of each other in Scrubs inside the changing room. Way too much giggling, and ‘I wouldn’t mind college so much if…‘s.
p.s: this may lack the excitement of your regular Grey’s Anatomy episode, but dude, that’s because of the paucity of hot men around.