Animal Farm

“A dog, a cat, and a pig walk in…” Sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s actually the tale of my surgical attachment to animals.

A teenager with leukemia. Grateful for a ground floor hospital room with large windows, my dog just a pane away. Nose to snout, hand to paw, inpatient, outpatient.

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Kindness in the OR

Slowly, though much faster than I had anticipated, I fell into the natural rhythm of my surgery rotation as a medical student. I saw the patients in preop, greeted nurses and scrub technicians, wrote my name on the whiteboard, and helped wheel patients into the OR prior to their surgery.

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Recovering From Brain Surgery

The surface of the square wooden table where I sit is sticky with spilled food and beverages. Post brain surgery, I’ve been lifting plastic forks and spoons and Styrofoam cups to my mouth with a somewhat disabled left hand that is overcoming what they call “meningioma neglect.”

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To a Lifetime of Happiness in the OR

Ever since my freshman year in med school, I’d dreamed of being a surgeon.

Yes, surgeons face long working hours, time away from family, and a challenging work environment. But I see surgeons as invincible. To be a surgeon, you must forgo anything that makes you feel vulnerable.

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Lipo

My patient inquires about one final issue during her appointment. After wavering for years, she’s decided to travel to Florida for liposuction. She has saved portions of her paycheck over the past year to pay her airfare, hotel, and surgical fee. The surgeon requires X-rays, an EKG, bloodwork, and preoperative clearance. And I am asked to provide them.

Often patients unhappy with their weight—and physical appearance—dream of a quick fix. With an internet recommendation of a surgeon and a few Zoom calls, the surgery is booked.

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The Gift of a Botched Surgery

When I was fifteen, I attended a summer music camp with my cello. One evening, during a capture-the-flag game, the boy I was chasing fell. I tripped over him, breaking my tibia and bending my fibula. Two surgeries later at a small community hospital in Maine (external reductions to avoid scars), my shin was dented. To this day, my left leg is shorter than my right, and I walk on the outside of my left foot with a limp.

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Scars

I held my breath as the medical assistant cut through the last layer of gauze and began to peel off the bandage. This would be my first view of my left foot since surgery two weeks earlier to correct a bunion and hammer toe.

My big toe and fourth toe were deeply bruised; a jagged, three-inch incision ran atop my bunion onto my big toe; another puckered incision snaked from the top of my foot onto my first toe, which was red and swollen.

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Carved Like a Pumpkin

It’s a few weeks before Halloween, that time of year when perfectly intact pumpkins are evident everywhere. I feel great empathy for their plight: “You have no idea what is going to happen next, buddy,” I think. “Someone is going to take a knife to you, and you have no idea how your beautiful, smooth face is about to transform.”

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You Need A Pacemaker

A line of medical professionals awaited me in the ED and worked me up for a complete heart block. A day later, my cardiac surgeon walked in and said, “You need a pacemaker.”

My heart rate had gone down to 28, it turns out, compared to a usual rate of between 60 and 100 beats a minutes. I met with a myriad of professionals on my team; each one explained their role and what I should expect from my impending surgery. I woke up in my room with a pacemaker rep, discussing my pacemaker.

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Pain

I am a PT with 38 years of clinical experience. Though I have many interests, the human experience of pain, especially where physical pain intersects with emotional pain, has been a patient-care focus of mine for some time now. I am also a mom of  two, one of whom I lost to the disease of addiction six years ago. And recently, I have been an orthopedic patient, having had a partial knee replacement two months ago.

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A History of Complications

A tonsillectomy at age nine that led to hemorrhaging and a return to the OR. An operation on four impacted wisdom teeth at age sixteen that kept me in a coma for three days. A hysterectomy at age thirty-six that involved the wound opening up, internal bleeding, and two additional hospital admits.

There’s more!

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October More Voices: Surgery

Dear Pulse readers,

I’m very disappointed.

I was scheduled to have a surgical procedure this past Tuesday. Knowing that October’s More Voices theme would be Surgery, I was planning, in this letter, to recount lurid details of the operation and of my postoperative pain or delirium, depending upon how many narcotic pills I was ingesting.

Alas, my procedure was postponed for a week.

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