Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 24

PROMPT: That’s not the surgery he was supposed to perform.

As far as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a doctor. My friends would change their minds about their futures on a daily basis, but I was consistent from a very young age. So, I had spent my high school summers and free time at college, shadowing surgeons, interning at doctors’ offices and working in labs. Some people were kind enough to take me under their wings. I got to observe surgeries, talk to patients, and anything else that an arbitrary code determined was ethical.

I was in the room right after an amputee came out of surgery. He was still under anesthesia, but it was one of the highlights of my shadowing. It’s a unique opportunity to get to see the results of a surgery right before your eyes. I stood in the side, talking to a med student as the doctors and nurses moved around the unconscious patient. “That’s not the surgery he was supposed to perform.”

Every eye in the room shifted slowly to the source of the voice. A nurse was standing at the foot of the bed holding the patient’s chart and staring at the amputated. It was completely silent for probably a full minute. The attending doctor broke the silence. “What?” The nurse looked stricken. I couldn’t blame her. Being the messenger of this news wasn’t an enviable task. She answered slowly. “He… The patient’s right arm was amputated. It was supposed to be his left.” More silence. The med student I had been talking to tugged my sleeve. And we slipped out the door. “Trust me,” he said, “You do not want to be there when that patient wakes up.”

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