How We Operate

The only true piece of cake rotation I had in nursing school was OR, the Operating Room. After all, I had been a surgical technician prior to enrolling in nursing school. It was something I knew very well.

The hospital I went to for clinical experience as a nursing student was the same hospital I went to for my clinicals as a surgical tech. When I walked in to the OR on my first day as a nursing student, I was more than a little surprised to find that the OR staff still remembered me.

“Mark! Is that you? Hey, everybody! Mark’s back!”

Warm welcomes come few and far between whenever you’re a student, and they’re especially rare in nursing, a profession that is legendary for eating its young. My classmates were duly impressed.

There was a reason why the OR staff remembered me. My very first solo as a surgical tech student was a simple case, a D&C–dilatation and curettage–a dusting and cleaning in OR speak.

The OR staff felt this was the perfect case to fly solo, so to speak, because there was virtually no way I could make a mistake egregious enough to cause permanent harm to anyone, and if I couldn’t handle this I needed to re-examine my career choices.

My female patient had already been put under. Her legs were in the stirrups as I visualized world peace and cathed her. I held a sterile basin in my left hand to collect her urine, and as I was performing this task, the surgeon, a man universally despised by everyone that worked in the OR, stormed into the room and started yelling at everyone.

I was already nervous, and now I became really nervous. I completed cathing my patient as Dr Gnarly Guy approached. I lost control of the basin as I turned to my right to set it down, and I kind of dropped/threw it in the general direction of the yelling surgeon. The empty basin clattered to the floor and came to rest in one of the corners. The urine stopped flying when it came into contact with Dr Gnarly Guy, showering him thoroughly from the waist down.

Want to get away?

Son of a bitch! I’m not sure how red I turned, but my embarrassment was evident even under the surgical mask I was wearing. I started apologizing. The OR staff started apologizing. The anesthesiologist apologized. He was even going to wake up the patient so she could apologize.

But, Dr Gnarly Guy didn’t explode with rage. He stood there, staring at me, as if he was trying to figure out what I was or something.

“I’m so sorry. I’m so incredibly sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Well, I hope you didn’t do it on purpose. Maybe I should have you buy me breakfast after this case is over.” he said. He even managed to sound slightly amused somehow.

The OR staff recovered far quicker than I did. They quickly introduced us, then suggested Dr Gnarly Guy buy me breakfast because I was only a student, and the circulating nurse told me to get my head out of my ass in a hurried whisper, and we were off.

The case went incredibly smoothly. We were in and out in thirty minutes. Dr Gnarly Guy actually thanked everyone, and walked out of the OR suite to go take his third shower of the morning.
No one could believe what had happened.

“Maybe I should throw urine on him every time he walks in here…”

“Don’t push your luck, kid. You must lead a charmed life. I doubt he’ll let that slide twice.”

I scrubbed in on a few more cases with Dr Gnarly Guy while I was a student. He made sure I had safely set the urine basin down before he started yelling at everyone in the room on every other case we worked on together, including me. Maybe I should’ve doused him with urine…

The second event was my first C-section. I was also flying solo on this case. There was a second tech that had scrubbed in, just in cases, but she was just standing around, making easy money on this case.

The surgeon was a young guy, Dr Dzubinczinski. He was a fine Irish lad. Not! He was as Polish as they come, and he was just a sweetheart of a guy. The OR nurses loved him. The younger nurses really loved him (mrugniecie). Everyone called him Dr Dee, for obvious reasons.

So there we were, the baby had been delivered, the bleeders had been cauterized. We were closing the incisions up, making some small talk. I was handing off instruments and keeping track of all the sharps and sponges and needles and everything. I was becoming impressed with the precision of the surgical teams and how smoothly everything flowed in the OR. I’d been scrubbing in on cases for maybe a month. I was beginning to think maybe I’d like being a surgical tech.

“You’re doing a fine job, Mark. I think you’ll make a good surgical tech someday.” Dr Dee said, catching me by surprise. I mean, he startled the hell out of me. He was one of the few surgeons that took any interest in any of the students, and he was actually nice to all of us. We loved him, too.

“Wow. Thank you, Dr Dee. You know, you’re doing a fine job yourself. In fact, if I ever need one of these operations, I’m gonna come see you.”

Dr Dee stopped everything he was doing. He peered over his mask, and looked me straight in the eyes.

“Mark, if you ever need a C-section, I’ll do it for free.” he said, and he meant it.

The OR staff never forgot that. Nor did they forget the day I gave Dr Gnarly Guy a golden shower, and lived. I received what appeared to be a hero’s welcome when I stepped back into the OR as a nursing student. Even the janitor guy came over and hugged me. He was a German guy named Adolph.

“Gott, I vish I could be you the day you throwed the piss all over that bastard!”

It’s easy to laugh about it now, but I would’ve gladly traded places with just about anyone at the time that it happened. Like, for instance, my Nutrition instructor.

Life is funny, is it not? Some things that look like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic have a way of diminishing with time. Their impact is no longer so devastating, and most of the time no one died.

I like that aspect of time, how it can heal you when nothing else can, if you let it. Perhaps the most healing aspect of time is so much other crap happens you more or less forget how wounded you were, and you go on living.

And every now and then, especially if you live a blessed life, you can pour piss all over someone and still come out a hero.

But don’t press your luck.

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