When you think of the OR, you don’t think about a room full of surgeons that stepped of a GQ magazine. The closest thing to that fantasy is “Grey’s Anatomy” which has handpicked Hollywood actors. Exhibit A: Jesse Williams
However, the last week the paths of model and medical crossed into a new orthopedic surgeon who had just recently moved from San Diego which I appropriately will nickname “Dr. Ken”.
For the past weeks, almost every other patient I have had has had a motorcycle related injury. I have had my fair share of motorcycle accidents in Texas, but never before this type of volume. Well, I guess in Arizona the roads are more “biker friendly” to a certain extent. There are much more back roads and the landscape makes it more fitting to get around during the daytime. However at night, there are not as many lights on the back roads as one would think and coincidentally, this when a majority of the motorcycle accidents occur. To make matters worse, some of the patients are not wearing helmets at the time of impact.
Yesterday was Halloween and it was definitely a busy shift especially since it was Friday. The cases started winding down around 5pm before it picked back up around 630pm. During that rare quiet hour and a half, the nursing assistants set the table for the staff Halloween potluck. It was a pretty decent spread of basic chips, salad, pasta and beef. There was one dish that looked innocent enough by its texture so I scooped up a spoonful of this chicken based meal. Before I could reach for another serving, the nursing assistant came up to me and said in a heavy Spanish accent, “ Uh, excuse me, have you ever eaten Mole before?” before I could remove the chip from my mouth to answer her she resumed, “Cause if you haven’t, some people like it and some people don’t. Maybe you don’t want to put too much.” I honored her request and put the second scoop down.
Being a second generation immigrant, I did not come from a typical American upbringing. My summers were not spent on family road trips to Disney Land or any other rite of passage for childhood. Instead, I got the unfortunate luxury (yes juxtaposed intentionally) of being thrust into adulthood by working many hours in my mother’s many business ventures.
Yesterday the unthinkable happened. While performing a total knee replacement, I spotted an uninvited visitor to the operating room suite—a house fly. I noticed the pest midflight as I was about to add five more laps to the sterile field. The surgical technologist immediately covered the instruments with a sterile towel and informed the surgeon that there was a fly in the mist. The surgeon paused for five seconds to look for it in the sky and gave the order “kill it” before he resumed repairing the arthritic knee. The task, “kill it” was not the problem, the bigger issue at hand was protecting the sterility that I had sworn in my preoperative time out to uphold. For a solid minute, the sound of the patient’s heartbeat monitor and the wings of the fly played in harmony as I desperately tried remove the disease ridden pest out of the surgical room. And then, the heartbeat monitor continued solo. The fly had landed on the head of one of the medical students watching the procedure. Without making any subtle movements, I instructed him to slowly walk away from the field and out of the operating room. The fly still attached to the surgical cap of the host medical student, happily flew away after the door had been shut.
A couple of days ago after all my scheduled cases were done, I got a semi-emergent case for an intoxicated patient who had fractured his leg and arm roughhousing with his buddies. In any rate, I made my way to Preop to ask him the standard questions prior to surgery and I got an unexpected offer:
When I stepped off the plane for the first time and into the dark corridors leading into traffic, I did not know what to expect. Arizona was certainly not on my radar of places to explore initially outside of Texas. But, as fate would have it, a great opportunity opened up at one of the level 1 trauma hospitals near Phoenix. For those of you are not familiar, level 1 trauma is the more extreme cases that only a few hospitals are equipped to handle. Severe car collisions, construction work accidents, any major head trauma as well as violent crimes all make their way into the level 1 trauma doors.
As I prepared my mind for the intense nature of my job, I failed to prepare other aspects of my life for the nature itself i.e. the heat. I had my car shipped to Arizona so unfortunately, I was not given the opportunity to acclimate myself to the atmosphere by driving into the desert lands. Rather, I was abruptly introduced into the area like an egg taken from the fridge and cracked over a skillet that been heating on the stove for at least an hour. There I was with luggage in tow, waiting to hail a cab and sweating from every gland in my body. To make matters worse, I had been wearing jeans which only added to the feeling of uncomfortable perspiration. Being from Houston, I thought I could handle the heat easily. On average, Phoenix is only 10-15 degrees higher than Houston. Moreover, Houston is by far more humid so the temperature in Phoenix would be more bearable right?—wrong. Despite my reasoning, Arizona’s dry landlocked heat intensity is nothing to Houston’s gulf bordering seaside warmth. The first week after I got home from work around 7:15pm , I constantly had to recheck my dash board that would read 111⁰ on my car!
Despite the near heat strokes I almost suffered from, there are other good things about AZ. First, picturesque landscape, the place is truly beautiful. Mountains run for miles and are high, I take many of the back roads when driving around just to get a feel of nature. Next, the people, I have had nothing but nice Arizonians approach me and offer help on various occasions. I am very excited for this journey and hope to make the best of my assignment here.