“Knife to Doctor Adams,” ordered the attending physician.
I reached out my scrubbed, sterile-glove-covered hand towards the surgical assistant. She slapped a shiny steel scalpel expertly onto my palm, and the sterile blade flashed in the bright lights. A soft rubber plop was all we heard. It was my moment. I would cut a deep, smile-shaped incision into the bulging abdomen of a living person.
I would dissect and manually tear through the muscles and layers of tissue to the uterus and open that now much-enlarged organ with another smaller incision. Out of the bleeding set of wounds would emerge a slippery baby covered with a film of whitish grease. I would lift a squirming child out of the warm wet hole, cut the cord, and announce, It’s a boy. A new life would begin today.
As the nurse slapped my palm with the tools of our trade, she watched my hands for a tremor and my eyes for fear. She knew this was my first time as the primary surgeon. What she saw was steady hands and a look of awe. But I was shaking inside.
How have I earned her trust? I wondered, glancing over my paper mask to the anxious face of the now pain-free woman. The epidural anesthesia drip in her back left her numb from the waist down. In addition, the anesthesiologist was adding a steady flow of anti-anxiety medicine to her IV fluids. She was aware, chemically calm, and watching.
“We are going to start now,” I announced while looking directly at her shiny blue eyes. Mine were bright blue also and focused.
Do she and her husband know how humbled I am by their belief in my newly developing skills? If they could hear my thoughts now, I wondered, would they tell me to stop? I was pretty sure they would.
A sterile blue-paper drape was placed neatly over her tummy. The drape had a peel-away piece of waxed paper protecting the clear adhesive window over her abdomen. The waxed paper was removed as we unfolded the drape into place and handed the upper edge of the blue paper to the anesthesiologist. He attached it to two poles at the head of the bed, creating a sterile barrier. He and the dad could stand behind it and listen. The surgical area was not visible. Watching could be most disturbing.
I placed the scalpel at the left lower edge of a plastic-covered pumpkin-sized bulge at a planned ninety-degree angle. My hand pressed down until I could see and feel the outer skin layers separate. The skin was brown from the pre-surgical Betadine paint job.
The temperature-controlled, frosty room reeked of disinfectant. Bright lights glared above and with one single deliberate movement I cut deeply and accurately along the path I had mapped in my head. The result was a bright red, curved incision, stretching ten inches along the bottom of the brown Betadine-stained abdomen. Dark red bubbles of blood oozed up along the incision, and the thick liquid turned shiny and more brightly red as it mixed with the oxygen in the air. The operating room technician dabbed at the incision.
“Nice job, Doctor,” observed the tech with amazement in her voice.
The wide-eyed husband peeked over the paper drape. He could not see the procedure underway, and his eyes, peeking over his paper mask, showed confusion and expectation of his son’s imminent arrival. I remembered how I had experienced the births of my two children, long before going to medical school. I had been confused and lost.
I wanted to reassure him, but it was not my operating room. It belonged to my mentor, and she concentrated on me. Four people were watching, and we all wore looks of alert concentration.
My decision to go to medical school had come late at thirty years old when my son was only two months old. My hair had been thinning since college, and there were strands of gray. A daughter was in our future when I came home and asked my wife Jeri for permission to go to medical school. I wanted adventure again and a greater sense of fulfillment.
I worked full time after finishing my MBA degree (no badge or button earned) and had gone to work for the corporate world. This was a place without morals or excitement where making money was the only objective. Weekends were spent doing Navy Reserves training, but this was not enough to meet my need for a sense of fulfillment.
“If we decide to do this, it will take a couple of years to get accepted. I’ll have to go back to school at night after work, and if I get in, we’ll have to sell everything and borrow money. We’ll be poor for seven years of medical school and residency,” I observed, with hope and reservation.
She was five foot four inches tall, intelligent, blond, and beautiful – the woman of my dreams. Her love for children and animals was why I needed her as my wife because I knew our children would be raised with compassion. She was feeding our son a bottle as she contemplated a response.
She knew I was not happy in my current job, where making money was my only task. Money has no ethics. To make one dollar, I had to get someone else to give it to me. When I commanded elite warriors parachuting, diving, shooting, and blowing things up in defense of our country, there was seldom a bad day. I would go to bed at night, distressed that I had to sleep eight hours before I could wake up and do it all again. I wanted to feel good again…like that.
“Sweetie, we were poor and happy when we got married, and we can be poor and happy again. I want you to come home and hug our kids. Anything less is unacceptable. You should try,” she said with encouragement in her sparkling blue eyes.
“Besides, you probably won’t get in at your age,” she added with a bright smile, shifting our infant son to her other arm. She stood up straight, with a swimmer’s shoulders and an athletic build. Her smile could light up any room. “Go for it anyway.” Unbeknownst to either of us, our daughter was just beginning to flutter in her mommy’s tummy.
Three and a half years later, I arrived at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a wife, two children, and everything we owned in our car and a small moving van. I was thirty-six years old.
But, this day, in the operating room, I gently lifted a newborn upward for all to see.
“It’s a boy!” I announced proudly, and my voice cracked a bit.
That day the nurse saw me as the real thing – a doctor to trust. The family saw me as a miracle worker. I viewed myself with humble awe that such monumental trust could be given. It changed me.
#weeklyprompt #appreciated #trust #amazingexperiences #doctors