The stone of surgery
I should be happy. I mean, I found the pen and the name tag that I misplaced yesterday after scrounging all over the place. But I think how my duty ended at the hospital left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth: we unwittingly roused our senior resident to anger because we were poking fun at the inevitability of staying late at the hospital. We had a patient who was scheduled for an open cholecystectomy today, and because I was the one in charge of the patient, entered his operation with a rather muscular friend of mine. I had expected the operation to be relatively lengthy, as nearly all operations with intraoperative cholangiograms were, so I tried to be in a jovial mood despite the fatigue. I was relatively successful: I talked about my past unrequited loves, and I warmed to the joking made by my co-intern regarding our stay in the operating room. It was akin to accepting one’s ineluctable end because one sees it so clearly in the distance: one of our senior residents said that it was the biggest bile duct stone she had ever seen in her three years as a resident, and it was indeed sizable. That alone prognosticated a long and grueling operation due to the sheer number of stones the patient harbored, probably even raised in her gastrointestinal tract. After I understood that there was no scrubbing out from an operation once it had begun, I just accepted the fact that I was probably going to go home only to sleep, and wake up to another duty tomorrow. In accepting my fate, I just made fun of it. Near the end, however, when despite really intensive clearing by our senior residents there were still some stones left, I shared in laughter with my co-intern (who was probably even more tired than I was, as he came from duty the night before), we were shouted on by our senior resident who wasn’t even prone to anger. He is one of the reasons why our surgery rotation was so tolerable, as he is patient, fun-loving, and diligent in his duties. I think it was the stress of his training officer that got to him. We then removed ourselves from sterility, and packed our things.
It was a catastrophe of sorts because he was never someone who would blow his top even at the most tense of circumstances. The patient, however, was flirting with deadly cholangitis and also had those massive stones that he wasn’t in the mood for black comedy. We went home after having witnessed an awesome tragedy. Still, it afforded me rest and he was nice enough to allow us to be shifted as my arms were really wobbly from all the effort: I’m someone slim, after all, and it was utter suffering to even hold a certain position against resistance. It was excruciating after three hours.
As I end my rotation in General Surgery I can’t help but think that I understand the reason why surgeons charge the way they do after operations. I’ve been only doing part of what they do for a month and I’m always enervated when I get home, but to operate on all sorts of people for five years and experience all kinds of difficulties and not charge at the end of it to make up for all of one’s suffering in becoming a surgeon is also unfair. I can only hope that they can save that lady, but I can vouch for their efforts in trying to save her.
I probably will never become a surgeon.