Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy


Anecdotes: General Surgery

3rd year is fascinating... I don't think I can say it enough times. Being exposed to all the different fields of medicine is like seeing little shattered fragments of humanity - each field attracts a certain "type". I've realized that that each specialty can be summed up by one defining moment. Today, we start with my first rotation...

General Surgery

I love to eat. In fact, if you had to ask me what my hobbies were, I would probably put "cooking" as #1, followed by "eating my own cooking" at #2 and "wishing I hadn't eaten my own cooking" at a close third†. Point is, I really enjoy eating. It's almost a spiritual experience for me; so when food becomes nothing more than sustenance I start getting a little upset.

Now, as a third year med student, you become quite the chameleon, mimicking everything your higher-ups do. This particular day I was following the same surgeon who was involved in the sanitizer debacle. We had 5 minutes between cases (sound familiar?), so he decided we'd go grab some lunch.

He sprints up to the doctors' lounge and grabs a turkey sangwich, throws away the top piece of bread, and folds the whole thing in half. This wasn't no wussy sandwich either... there was about half a turkey on this thing. Three of these babies and we coulda held Thanksgiving for the entire state of Vermont. I followed suit with the folding.

The doc proceeds to stuff the sandwich in his mouth like those freakish pythons you always see eating crocodiles on nature shows. I swear he unhinged his jaw. Somewhere, Steve Irwin shifted in his grave. I tried to do the same and failed miserably.

Now, this is a problem. We were running back to the OR, which, of course, is sterile - which means I need a mask, hat, and no sandwich once I get there. I'm still gagging down the remains of Gobbles the Turkey, and my surgeon shows no signs of slowing.

I finally made the executive decision to stuff the entire sandwich in my mouth and put the mask on over my face, thusly 1) becoming sterile and 2) giving my freakishly bloated cheeks added support. As there was no way I could chew, the sandwich slowly digested in my mouth.

What I learned: Surgeons, like snakes, are not human.

†It involved raw chicken, uncooked eggs, and a very ill-advised attempt at "American Style Sushi" ††

††Anybody who wants to come, I'm throwing a dinner party at our house on Saturday. You're all invited... just say the blog sent you.

Comments (10) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Not to mention the way surgeons never need to pee. The case could be 5 minutes or 6 hours, but I’ve never seen one break scrub to go pee. I’ve heard tales of it happening, but I think it’s an urban legend. The lack of sleeping, eating, and peeing involved in surgery eventually convinced me that I couldn’t do it, as I occasionally like to do all of the above.

  2. I had the EXACT same sandwich experience with a surgeon (not the one I was with) that was in the OR lounge. I’m talking fingers poking out the last millimeters of bread sponginess to get it in that maw. I don’t see how he breathed, let alone swallowed.

    As for your ballsy move of self-preserving sustenance, you clearly handled the “pressure” well. heh. Blowing chunks from behind a mask is generally considered bad form. Negative bonus points for field-contaminating spillover.

    P.S. I think the proper spelling (for the benefit of non-Spanglish speakers) would be “sangweech.” 😉

  3. I have no idea how ppl in the OR can be in there for hours without a break. That and it’s farking freezing in there. I always felt the need to run laps to get the blood back into my toes.
    /will never work in the OR.
    //be careful with the dinner invites. i just might show up at your door one day, it gets lonely in northern vermont.

  4. haha this was worth the wait.

  5. That is certainly one funny anecdote! Yup, I do have similar experiences during my clerkship days when one learns how to gobble up lunch in the space of 5 minutes and to have a urinary bladder with larger capacity for holding urine.

  6. Great story! No sleeping, no urinating, no chewing. The three reasons I didn’t become a surgeon, in descending order of importance for me. :)

  7. In surgery training we were told not to reveal this; but since this post and the comments thereon, if one were to put them together, actually come close to revealing it, I’ll spill (of course, it only applies to male surgeons; and it confirms what one might expect, anatomically, about those males that choose surgery):during long cases we pee into our mouth.

  8. hmmm, sid. i must unfortunately confess, i am not as endowed as you. i also seldom wear those thyroid protection devices, even when doing an intraoperative gram. hence i did not have …um…closure all the way up to the mouth. good on you, though.

  9. Yea, surgery can be rough. I remember I was in a case once from 9am to 5pm, no breaks for lunch, no breaks to pee. And, on top of that, the warmer underneath the patient ruptured spilling water all over the floor. We couldn’t move the patient since the procedure was already 2 hrs in, so what did they decide to do instead? Oh yea, warm the ENTIRE OR up to like 90 degrees to keep the patient warm. We were dying underneath the scrubs/gowns for the next… six… hours…

    Happy blogging!

  10. Zac – Just discovered your blog. It’s hilarious. Mind if I link to you?

    Great story, rofl. So exactly true. In my experience, the key is not drinking. 😉