were the words he said. Actually, he didn’t say them as much as angrily and red-faced screamed them, and this, might I add, is the severely cleaned up version of his tirade. There were many other quite colorful words he said as he pointed his scalpel at me. A scalpel, I must say, that he hadn’t had the chance to use yet.
I was a very young, very green, very squeamish nursing student. It wasn’t a hundred years ago, but looking back, it seems so. I had already told my instructor that I was a bit apprehensive about rotating through the surgery suite, but she, having more faith in me than she should have, encouraged me to “give it a whirl”. I gave it a whirl alright; right to the ground. I had one of my biggest pump-knots ever from that experience, not to mention my wounded pride.
The victim, aka patient, was draped and swathed over their entire abdomen, with betadine. The first incision hadn’t been made and yet, just seeing that poor soul lying there like a corpse, covered in the magenta colored antiseptic, made my head spin. I sang in my mind, as I often did when I was nervous, Bee-Gees songs. Something about that beautiful Barry’s falsetto just calmed me right down. In this particular case, however, it was ineffective. The head Operating Room nurse (who was a very formidable character) had placed me nearby, but not close enough to get in the way. At least that was what she thought. Every time she looked at me with those sharp, intelligent, hard eyes, I felt like I was five years old and about to get a spanking. I stood in the exact spot she put me and didn’t move an inch; not one single inch. Up until , that is, the point that I passed out.
The Surgeon, one who was known for his quick temper and blatant intolerance, didn’t even glance in my direction. I was, as far as he was concerned, little more than a gnat to be swatted away. He was in his element an he knew it; reveled in it … a god in his own heaven. The fact that there was a young nursing student watching his every move just enhanced his already inflated ego and even so, he still didn’t acknowledge my presence. I was glad of that because I was, without a doubt, terrified.
I looked at the poor soul that was about to be cut on, saw the red hue of the betadine and felt myself getting warm. I had never passed out before, so I didn’t recognize the warning signs. I had no idea how much damage simply collapsing in a heap could cause.
If I had only passed out and fell without incident, I suppose he would have just left me there until he was finished; caring not if I were alive or dead and happy in his existence, either way… but that isn’t what happened. At the moment I realized that I was going down, I reached out. (after all, isn’t that what people do when they realize they are falling? reach out for something to brace themselves with?) In this particular case, the thing I caught hold of was THE sterile tray of items needed for the surgery at hand. I pulled gauze, instruments and towels to the floor, thus compromising the sterility of everything that would be needed f0r the surgery. One of the towels landed across part of my face; the instruments and gauze strewn about me. The spell lasted only, as fainting spells often do, a few seconds. But my, oh my, the havoc that a few seconds can have on an already tense situation.
When I woke up (again, after only a few seconds), the surgeon was standing over me, scalpel pointed at the part of my face (namely my eyes) that weren’t covered by the previously sterile towel, screaming at me to get the #$&% out of his OR and ensuring me that if I ever came back to his operating suite, he would strangle me with his own hands and laugh while I was being buried. Being young, green and very impressionable, I did the only thing I could think of to do; I started crying. That pissed him off even more and I learned a whole slew of new words. Some of them, nearly thirty years later, I still don’t know the meaning of.
Needless to say, I was banned, for all eternity, from the OR and had to spend an extra three weeks (I’m now convinced it was solely as punishment) in Pediatrics just to get enough clinical hours to get me through Nursing School. By some miracle, I graduated, passed my boards and ended up actually making a living as a nurse.
I became less squeamish as years passed and tasks that had to be don were less daunting. Other than watching someone be hacked on, I found could tolerate many gruesome things. As I get older, though, and I am older for that experience happened more than 25 years ago, I find myself becoming squeamish again. More often than not these days, I find it’s hard not to gag at the myriad of things that people bring to “show the nurse”. There are things I don’t need to see, things I don’t need to hear and things I wish I never knew existed. These days, my least favorite phrase is “ears!” for God knows that the things that grow in people’s ears is as close to Hell as one can come without actually getting burned.
I am not thwarted, though, because unless I am discovered as a writer or photographer, I can retire in another 100 years. Wait, I’ll be dead by then and I won’t have to worry about it anymore and the fear of humiliation will be noting more than a bad memory.
We learn things as we go through life. Things that make us stronger, more secure or simply cut us off at the knees and then kick us while we are bleeding out in front of the spectators. I still sing Bee-Gees songs when I get nervous about something and I still wonder, at times, if this will be the moment when I hit the floor. It is, if nothing else, an adventure in itself, but I’m finding the adventure to be less adventurous and more arduous as time passes. But, like I said, in 100 years, I can retire. I am counting the minutes.
Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far; far, far away from here ~ Jenny in Forrest Gump