Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Last week I got to spend a morning in the OR watching surgery. The department has 22 operating rooms, three of which are dedicated full-time to open heart surgery. Many of the rooms have the sqare footage of my first apartment. The circular design of the facility is set up to keep all non-sterile people and equipment on the outside to reduce foreign bacteria presence. Most of the materials, and even the walls, were engineered and imported from Germany. It's the only OR of its kind in our country! The result: infection rates are some of the lowest of any surgery facility you'll find.
Room 1: A woman was having knee surgery. Her skin was cut and peeled back carefully but expediently. Her flesh was pushed or cut aside and there was her bone. Just out there for me to see. The doctor placed in a metal plate and a number of screws using what resembled my Craftsman power drill at home. You know how your teeth cringe even when you think of the dentist's drill in your mouth. Well, now my knee gets the same sensation.
We listened to the Eagles via the doctor's iPhone pumped into speakers the whole time.
X-rays were taken throughout the process to ensure precision. However, at one point the doctor employed a simpler approach to make an adjustment. And our came the crowbar. (Hey, I've got one of those!) Some violent looking prying was necessary for things to be just right, and my legs became weak when I heard the metal on bone crackling. Eek!
There were times when I was utterly bamboozled by the ingenuity and creativity that went into surgical techniques and technology. But in contrast there were times when I was befuddled by the shear primitive nature of what happened. A crowbar? Really. I mean,...really.
Room 2: A cancer patient was having a port-cath put in so her kemotherapy drugs wouldn't mangle her arm veins. Using this snazzy device the drugs can go straight to her heart and out to the body. This was a minor procedure, but what amazed me most was the way in which they got it all in there with only two tiny cuts.
Room 3: Aneurysm surgery. This patient had been opened from the bottom of the sternum down to the groin. Basically, there was a big hole where his stomach normally is. From 7 feet away I couldn't see the bottom of the whole. Just four hands reaching inside, working diligently. The two doctors were bloody up to their elbows and on their chests, surrounded by assistants covered in aprons, gloves and a cool head contraption which had a light on one's forehead.
Surgery is amazing. I think it truly is a modern day miracle. After watching the surgeries I have a better idea of what many patients go through. I can be a better caregiver to them. I also know that I never want to have surgery. Call it a personal thing. But, I don't want to lie naked on a table in a cold room while some stranger uses a crowbar to correct my bones while listening to 70's rock. No thank you.


Erin Miller said...

Ha! You have convinced me not to have surgery either. If fact....I don't know if I really need to watch it. I can just read your blog and be done. Good descriptions!

Vicki Hesse said...

Love the image of power drills - "hey I have one of those"!! you keep them at home, okay? "kids, don't try this at work"