Saturday, June 12, 2010

Aesthetic anaesthetics

In retrospect, I would have been a damn good beauty therapist. Always had a thing for a pimple. And zero tolerance for a blackhead. Learnt the four basic steps very early ... cleanse, exfoliate, tone, moisturise. And soon after, the fifth very vital step. Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock.

As a kid I would scrutinize my family's faces. Any blemishes were totally unacceptable and all attempts were made for instant eradication. The only problem was that they always bitched and moaned. This would so upset me! I would dream of giving them some potion to get them to zip it and lie still so I could do my thing properly and in peace. Perhaps that was the tiny subconcious seed which led to my walk down anaesthesia lane many years later? Who knows....

I only truly realised the potential of a mute and immobile subject in my second year of medical school. Anatomy dissection. You either willingly donated your body to science, or science claimed your body if nobody else did.

Our cadaver was a middle-aged hobo, found on the streets. It's sad I know, but at least he had company for a whole year. Five of us sat around him for hours everyday, chatting to him and learning from him. We even missed him over weekends.

One such day, we were dissecting the foot. I got bored. Only so many bodies can sit around a foot, so I moved to the head for a break.

I looked down at his yet undissected face and wondered about him ... his life ... the family that hadn't claimed him.... Without even realising what I was doing I ran my gloved fingers over his face. Almost in a formalin-induced trance, I gently began extractions on skin which had never been exposed to the five vital steps....

When I realised the magnitude of the subcutaneous muck, I grew bolder and more determined to give him the best facial ever. After all, he had given us his entire body, it would be the least I could do in return. No-one should ever have to leave this earth without experiencing a decent facial. Plus, and this was a major plus, he didn't complain.

The foot with its tendons, nerves and arteries became a distant haze, as I concentrated on the task at hand. To this day 'tis the body part I know the least about ... the foot ...

I barely registered the horrified reaction from my mates, and when they insisted upon my "getting help", I realised. They just didn't understand, and never would.

I managed to sort of suppress my aesthetic urges for some years, but they surfaced with a vengeance in my second year as an anaesthetic registrar. It was 3am, we had been busy with a vascular case for a number of hours and still had a few hours to go. Some silly teenager had put both his fists through a glass panel and severed just about everything ... tendons, arteries, nerves ... a full house.

He was healthy and cruising, steadily. I was falling asleep.

In an extremely weak moment, I put my head down on the pillow next to his, just for a second mind you ... but that was all it took.

Zits galore!!!!!!

My sleep-fogged mind went on instant alert as I formulated my plan. A pair of sterile gloves, a pack of sterile gauze, some hibitane scrub, followed by hibitane in alcohol, and finally chlorhexidine cream. Perfect!

I surreptitiously got to work. Luckily both the floor nurse and runner were too busy fighting the powers of unconsciousness, to pay any attention to me.

Pop after pop, sleep was forgotten, the length of the operation was forgotten, all that remained was the multitude of zits in differing stages of development, and the sounds from my monitors. Two and a half hours!!! That's how long it took to clean his face! Two and a half hours of intense facial therapy, and absolute BLISS!!! Antibiotics had been topped up intra-operatively so we were covered from that aspect too.

I thought he looked fabulous when I was done. Young, clean, fresh, with a beautifully glowing skin.
All the vital steps had been followed, down to the very last one. Yes, by then I was in the habit of carrying around some sunblock. So Mr Teen, got it all!! For free!! And it looked really good!!

As I was peeling off my gloves, the surgeon drily asked if the patient had signed consent for my procedure. What procedure I thought?? This was a duty to humanity, not a procedure!
Nevertheless, I felt nervous enough to visit the patient the next day. He thought that perhaps anaesthesia must agree with him, cause his skin had so miraculously cleared up. I left it at that.

With no complaints to date, years down the line, I tirelessly continue to fulfill my duty to humanity. And enjoy every second of it!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Turning Tides

For the past eight months, suffering in silence, is an understatement for what I have been experiencing. Holding my tongue has been difficult, but lashing out at an unknown entity would have been just plain stupid. Also I am the alien amongst the masses, carefully searching for my little spot in the sun, so perhaps it was wise to shut up, and observe. You know ... silence is golden .... and all that, blah blah blah ...

I've become quite the expert at quiet observation I must admit. Hopefully it's a virtue that will serve me well in the future, although I probably come across as a total spineless idiot to all the other drama queens and prima donnas I call colleagues.

Lately, the pieces of the puzzle have been slowly starting to fall into place. I am beginning to understand them. It's exactly the way I felt when I finally grasped the dynamics of Kalafong!! Strange ... ander dam se eende ... but I finally get it, sort of.

They are what they are, and that's it. No more, no less. And quite frankly, I don't give a rat's ass ... anymore.

So it is with this much lighter and much less sensitive heart, that I take myself off to work each day. My neon pink theatre shoes could give vision to the blind they're so bright, and add all the zest my day could possibly need.

Another such day in paradise, and I'm doing premeds. Good thing premeds are done in the mornings, when we still look fresh with freshly applied make-up, shiny lipgloss, and presentable hair! Once that theatre cap goes on, it's tickets for the day's glamour. Not to mention our scrubs, even the crappest fashion house's worst nightmare.

I'm having a conversation with my patient in my much-improved greek. Yep, much-improved. The husband keeps interrupting, answering my questions and generally being an irritation. I so hate it when people do that. I finally decide enough is enough, and look up at him trying to figure out the best way in which to explain that he should butt out, when he takes off his mirror-finished shades.

Ok, I think to myself, here it comes ... and I doubt whether my shiny lipgloss will be of any benefit.
I am a lawyer. Now, in this place a lawyer is something akin to the Father, the Ghost, and the Holy Spirit. Apparently the doctors too ... but I wouldn't know ...

I specifically requested that you be my wife's anaesthetist today.

Get out of here!!!!!!!!!!!!! I almost choke trying not to laugh!!!!!! I am dr anonymous!! Nobody knows of me around here???!!!

How is that I ask?

You come highly recommended by my colleague Georgos. You did him a few weeks ago and he told me to ask for you.

Georgos??? .... Georgos ... ah .... Georgos ... another lawyer ... I thank the Lord for the Omega 3 fish oils and Advanced brain food supplements I've been taking - I actually remember Georgos! The guy that considered me a Romanian. According to his expert knowledge I look and sound Romanian??!! I opted to take his comments as a compliment.

And where did you put in this request? I called the surgeon and told him it was you or no go.

Well, how I wish I could have been privy to that conversation!! Could the tides finally be turning?

I laughed out loud all the way back to theatre. And quietly to myself for the rest of the day!