Friday, November 30, 2007

The Part I Object To

I have had two spots of basal cell carcinoma removed before, so I went to the dermatologist this morning knowing that they would lay me down on the table, numb my forehead, and cut out the red spots that have been hanging around there for the past six months. I don't like having minor surgery performed on me, in fact the very thought of incisions makes me sick to my stomach, but I understand it needed to be done.

I was going to a UW clinic and I know that they all exist largely to provide a practicing ground for UW medical students, so it didn't surprise me to get a student doctor doing his dermatology rotation. I know that at some point students need to make the jump from practicing on dummies or corpses or whatever to doing real work with real live people, and I don't mind being one of those practice patients. I've never felt that I was in bad hands with a medical student. My student doctor this morning was both warm and professional, in fact, and I'm sure he'll make a very good doctor.

I understand that medical students, just like real doctors, are human and make mistakes. I don't mind that my student doctor this morning had two failed attempts at sewing up the incision--the first because the suture tore right through the damaged skin and the second because he pulled too hard and broke the suture--before the attending physician did it right. Really, I don't mind. It was a minor mistake that is apparently easy to make, and no permanent damage was done. As much as it grosses me out to think about it, it's okay.

And that's where the problem comes in. As I lay there with a bright light in my eyes, a numb forehead, and two men over me, doing mysterious things with sharp objects, I did not want to think about what was happening. I did not want to know there was some kind of trial-and-error thing going on with the bleeding open wound in my forehead. I closed my eyes because I didn't want to see what they were doing; I could have been spared the play-by-play narration. If the thought of it now makes me queasy, imagine how I felt at the time. It's no wonder I started to black out afterward while scheduling a follow-up appointment with the receptionist, and had to sit down.

So yes, medical students of the world, you are welcome to practice your suture technique on my forehead (assuming, of course, that the procedure is necessary in the first place). Mess up as much as you want, as long as it gets done right in the end. But please, please, don't talk about what you're doing out loud. Use sign language.


Actually, scratch that idea. Sign language doesn't go well with the whole carrying-sharp-objects-with-one-hand-and-holding-the-pieces-of-my-head- together-with-another thing. Speak Latvian instead.


John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Yes, I had a similar experience with dental work. The dentist and an assistant were removing a wisdom tooth.

Hearing a horrible cracking sound inside of your totally numb mouth, and then hearing the dentist say "OOPS!" is not a fun thing to hear.

Scot said...

They need their own version of pig latin. Something like:

“Atthue illwue eavelue a astynue arescue”

King J, Queen M, Princess E and Princess M said...

I don't know, it might be fun to watch them try to do sign language with sharp objects. LOL

Th. said...


Pig Latvian.

Rebecca said...

I read somewhere that more people die in the hospital in June and September because all the recent medical school graduates are starting then. This probably isn't a helpful comment. At least you weren't in a life-threatening situation. And also it's not June or September.