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Not a Routine Procedure

for your patient or their family

A week ago Thursday, my mom texted me between my cases. We chatted for a bit about the family and then she told me that she was at urgent care.

My baby brother, 9-year-old M, had just started football practice on Monday and came home with a headache and nausea. On Wednesday, he spent most of the night vomiting. On Thursday, he felt worse, and said his stomach hurt, so mom took him in.

M had no fever. Urgent care did a CBC and abdominal X-ray, both normal. They sent him over to the hospital for an abdominal ultrasound, on which, unfortunately, his appendix could not be seen.

The doctor offered the choice between CT and continuing to observe at home. My mom and I discussed it. Being both family and at a distance, I did not want to second-guess a colleague who actually laid eyes on “the patient.” Ultimately M went home after some zofran and fluids.

I woke early the next morning to an urgent text:

“Headed to the OR shortly. Came to the ER with M at 9 last night.”

I responded:

“Poor buddy! Appy? Praying!”

Mom:

“Yes, we just prayed and said goodbye. 😥”

We talked a little longer and then I had to go round. My mom and dad had been up all night and dad had just gone home for a bit. I called my sister (@mktheworst, for those of you who know her) to ask her to check in on mom and take her food and a toothbrush.

I stood in the OR hallway talking to MK. For everyone else, it was business as usual on a Friday morning in the OR. For me, my baby brother was having surgery. And I couldn’t be there for him or my parents, couldn’t show up with coffee and muffins and a fun gift.

I had to hang up abruptly because my patient was intubated and ready to prep. The switch between being a patient’s family member and being a patient’s surgeon was jarring.

M’s appendectomy went well. He acted cranky in recovery and refused to take PO for hours. The nurse offered him all the usual things – jello, ice cream, popsicle – but he was having none of it.

Finally, they gave him a menu. That goofy boy chose bacon and chocolate milk! He went home shortly thereafter.

Now, he’s back to his usual mischievous self. No football for a while, though.

I forget what it’s like to be a patient and a family member, until these things happen. I do surgery every single day. Many surgeries are routine for me.

For a patient and their family, there is no such thing as a routine procedure. I’m keeping this in mind today.

Keep up the strong work,

Single With Scalpel

 

 

About the Author

Single With Scalpel is a Pediatric Otolaryngology fellow who tweets about life, humor, and medical education. She blogs here when 140 characters simply aren't enough.

2 Comments

  1. Great post. We physicians do have personal lives that have to be tucked away when doing your best for others. But hard to do

    • Thanks for your comment! Healthy compartmentalization is really tough to do well.

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