17 May 2013

Schedule change

Most nights my eyes snap awake around 4:30 AM. I look over at my clock and realize that there's no point in going to back to sleep, because my alarm will be going off in a half-hour or so. I rush over to my computer so that I can use these precious extra minutes to read up on the day's surgical cases. I need to study the procedures and the patients' case histories so that I can give an intelligent response when the surgeons quiz (or as the profession calls it, "pimp") me in the operating room.

I'm grateful to my body for (largely uncomplainingly) accommodating the demands of the surgery rotation: the long hours standing in the operating room, the waking up early and going to bed late, the postponing meals. I haven't had to leave a surgery partway through to use the bathroom, I haven't fallen asleep during a procedure, and I haven't felt like I was going to pass out in the operating room. I've kept my cool during tense and frustrating moments. But each of these little victories has been hard-fought, requiring planning, vigilance, and conscious acts of will. I understand now how invigorating it is to be in the operating room, and I've felt very alive those times a surgeon has had me suture an incision or electrocauterize some tissue.  But the longer I spend on my surgery rotation, the less I comprehend how surgeons and surgical residents are able to keep it up for so many years.