Monday, January 28, 2008

The Smell of Cautery in the Morning

Darrell in scrubs
Originally uploaded by darebouche
I got to sit in on a surgery. I didn't touch or come near the patient, but I got to watch from pretty close by. This was a first for me, and I'm pretty proud of myself because I didn't get sick or freak out or anything.
Because I need to be careful about the privacy of all concerned, I won't really provide any details, but I couldn't let this go by without at least mentioning it.
I had to put on scrubs, a mask, a hat, shoe covers...the whole package. The experience was fascinating. The closest I had come was the births of my children, Obviously, I was emotionally involved when I was in those delivery rooms. This was different: full-blown OR, sterile field, negative pressure, blood, tissue, bones, unconscious patient.
It wasn't the sights that got my attention; it was the smells. First, there was cautery. I wasn't ready for that, but I adjusted. Then, I learned a valuable lesson. I had a cup of coffee somewhere along the way. The rest of the morning, I had to smell my own coffee breath inside that mask. I nave a new appreciation for the power of an Altoid.
We'll close 'er up now. Thanks for playing along.

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Linnea said...


Among my many different jobs along the way, I was a medical assistant in my early 20's. I, too, sat in on a few surgeries, and even assisted in a couple (mostly just cutting stitches as the surgeon tied them, and blotting blood with sterile gauze to "clear the area"). I have said the exact same thing about the smells inside there. It's something I can't explain - aromas no one other than those who have seen the inside of the human body has ever experienced. Very weird.

The funniest thing I ever witnessed was a very large guy whose anesthesia wore off for a couple of seconds, and he sat bolt up on the table - while he was opened up, mind you - and grabbed the surgical nurse in a bear hug, told her he loved her, and then he passed out again. Scared the bejeezus out of me.

Anonymous said...

Hope everything turned out okay.


Darrell said...

Thanks. I wasn't the patient. I was an observer. It was an elective surgery, and everybody's okay!

Anonymous said...

One of my first "surgical experiences" was with PM Magazine when we were doing a story on natural child birth. I must've turned 5 shades of green during that one. Years later I was a contract producer at a major medical institute where they did cochlear implants and glomar tumor removal. I got green in the gills that first month but it got better.

I've probably logged hundreds of hours in OR's since then as medical video and VNR's are a niche service I've developed. Funniest surgeries are penile-implants as post-op recovery requires a "inflation" to maintain tissue shape conformity. It's hilarious to see a gurney being wheeled out with a tiny "tent" on the patient.