First (minor) operation

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The first time I entered the Operating Room was the first time I was asked to do a minor surgery.


We were too eager, my groupmates and I. We wanted to have a memorable first experience so badly that when the petite resident, already busy with her share of patients, asked us, "Do you want to excise a lipoma?" we immediately said yes. We had only seen lipomas in textbooks.

Guided by our vague memories of Grey's Anatomy and our peripheral vision of more experienced interns and surgical residents, we performed the process of scrubbing in. The ritual was meant to keep everything aseptic.

The friendly doctor then gave us instructions—where to make the incision, how to administer the anesthesia, what type of suture to employ in closing the wound. The general dictum is the see-one-do-one principle. We had only the hear-one-do-one because she had a number of patients to attend to. "If you have questions, I'll be in the first cubicle" was the only reassurance we got, but it was a comfort to at least have someone to call to when something went badly wrong. We had that "What do we do now?" look.

Lennie Chua and Elizabeth Ching were assigned a patient with an epidermal inclusion cyst. Jegar Catindig, Marvyn Chan, and I were given a patient with four lipoma masses on his lower back. By the time the girls extracted the cyst, they hopped on to our cubicle and helped us out.

We alternated in the excision and retraction, which took us a little more than three hours. The patient, a 50-something man, was in a good mood, but we could tell he was getting hungry. During the operation we talked about his children, his business, and what food he'd like to order for lunch.

I personally saw him after the operation, when he was on his way out. "Kami po 'yung nagtanggal ng bukol ninyo (We were the ones who took the masses out)," I said.

"Ah, oo nga, naalala ko 'yung boses mo (Oh, yes, I remember your voice)," he said. "Salamat, ha (Thank you)." 

Seeing patients happy and contented—oh, such joy.

*  *  *

My classmate, Laureen Lukban, wrote a sobering reminder:
There aren’t enough thank yous to say to patients who line up at 3-4 AM in the OPD, who willingly or unwillingly let themselves be examined by students at 7:30 in the morning and wait another 3-4 hours before they’re seen by a consultant, without a word of complaint. That they could still sit patiently for so long, smile, and say thank you back is beyond me. I feel so incredibly humbled, sad, thankful, and motivated by what I’ve seen and experienced the past 2 weeks, and I’m not even in the more toxic rotations yet.

3 thoughts on “First (minor) operation”

  1. Cool. I hope that we would all have that same attitude while when we become interns or clerks. Kahit na toxic.:)

  2. AAce: At this point, I'm open to anything.

    Anonymous (may I know your name?), it's probably a big challenge to keep that attitude, but we, as Dr. Alonso said in our Art of Med lectures, must do our best.

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