When I say theatre I mean the operating or surgical theatre. I studied for a BSc in Diagnostic Radiography and as such was required to attend a small surgical attachment, meaning for one week I was required to attend a local hospital and sit in on surgical procedures, some with tuition from the surgeon and some without.
I remember feeling anxious as I had never been in an actual operating theatre before either as an observer or as a patient. It was an entirely new experience for me. I made my way to the students lounge to meet the tutor who was going to assign us to our groups and theatre lists. I met up with the friends I had made during my first few months in college and we all sat at a small table with coffee or tea, some of us had brought breakfast along (me and one other as neither of us were the type to be able to eat first thing in the morning, I had a pecan Danish and a double strength latte which I had picked up in the bus station on my way here) and we were also within the smoking section as all of us barring 2 were smokers and this was before government legislation that rescinded permission to have designated smoking areas within public and corporate buildings. We were all nervous as this was our first make or break situation in the practical field so we basically chain-smoked our way to 9 am.
Our tutor arrived just before 9 and made herself a coffee at the refreshments table and then sat aside from all of us until she had finished her coffee. We were mixed in with other students who were attending various practical seminars or training placements so she waited until almost all had gone off to their designated work areas leaving just the radiography students and a few late starters. We were given a brief summary of where each group would attend through the day and a timetable of our specific placements through the week plus a list of the groups we were designated to. We were basically split off into twos or threes to avoid overcrowding each theatre. Once the paperwork and briefing were done our tutor took us to the theatre block and showed us to the changing rooms. A male theatre attendant was asked to assist the few males in the group and the rest of us followed our tutor to the changing room. Although Radiography is a subject with a heavy emphasis on Physics it is still a very female oriented course and profession with a ratio of perhaps 1 male to 5 females or higher.
So, we find our ‘blues’, the theatre garb similar in many ways to pyjamas, also referred to as ‘greens’ though in reality they can be any colour and can incorporate a pattern, and we get set to change into them. I was always very shy of changing in public so this was nervy for me personally. We waited then to be taken off to our first schedule, talking quietly amongst ourselves about what we expected, what we were afraid of and such. I was not overly anxious about anything other than perhaps fainting and embarrassing myself, the blood and guts didn’t really bother me as I had a love of medical procedural programmes and had not found myself to be squeamish.
My group walked in to our first session. A patient was having their adenoids removed and the patient was a haemophiliac. This piqued my interest as I had always had trouble with my upper respiratory tract and my mum had forever tried to get our family GP to refer me to have my adenoids removed. Now I say I am not squeamish, this is only partly true, I am not squeamish as long as it is happening to someone else. After watching the procedure I vowed I would never have my adenoids taken out unless it was a life or death situation. I am also squeamish when anything involves the eyeball or eye socket, I cannot bring myself to even attempt to wear contact lenses and I am still trying to ready myself for the time when I have to have a glaucoma test, still 10 years to go but I have been working up to this from childhood when my gran was diagnosed with the condition. I’m not there yet.
Anyway, back to my first theatre experience. As I said this was an adenoids removal on a haemophiliac We walked into theatre and the preparations had been made, patient anaesthetised, covered in green surgical sheets (incidentally the colour of the surgical sheets is designed to highlight blood so a surgeon can spot a bleeder from an unsuspected source more quickly and can also distinguish more easily to other fluids such as spilled saline or betadine), and was attached to the anaesthetist’s monitors and gas pumps and various drips, the surgeon was ready to start the procedure, his head nurse at one side and a training surgeon on the other. I never saw his face other than his eyes and a few wisps of hair poking our from under his surgeon’s hat. He had dark hair, olive skin and medium brown eyes.
I only remember two things about the procedure even though I did not faint, it is just that two things stand out in memory. The first was the explanation of how blood loss is reduced in haemophiliacs during surgery which the surgeon had highlighted by soaking a surgical swab in a saline/cocaine solution. cocaine is a vasoconstrictor and as such applying this to the nearby tissues reduces the blood loss as the blood vessels become too narrow to allow blood flow. He directed his gaze to me and to my group (well partner as it was just the two of us, the third having virtually fainted on entering the room and seeing the greens on the patient). He was fishing for a response so I merely nodded my understanding of that concept. Incidentally we were at the ‘business’ end of the patient so we had a good view and were only about 2 feet away from the surgeon.
The second thing I remember is the removal of mucus from the patients nasal passage. The adenoids are glands similar to tonsils which lie at the back of the main nasal cavity. I don’t remember much of the mucus but I do remember one to which he referred to in the distinctly professional term of ‘bogey’. My fellow student turned away until that one was put in a kidney dish, which happened a few minutes after removal as the surgeon waved it around a bit, particularly in my direction as I held his stare while he described it as a rather pale and insipid slug. It didn’t make me feel queasy, which I suspect the surgeon was hoping I would be, and it taught me a very graphic lesson about how big the nasal cavity is. I, myself, have a rather small nose, barely two inches from brow to tip. This ‘bogey’ was at least twice that long and about a half inch in diameter. A valuable lesson learned I feel 🙂