Monday, July 14, 2008

Call of the Sirens (Part VII)

And so, we come back to our continuing saga of a goof attempting to become a physician. We've seen her go through the first two years of unrelenting butt work and are now in the spring of her discontented third year, having finished everything but pediatrics, something she already knew she didn't want anything to do with.

Which, of course, led her to just relax and have some fun and be told she should really go into pediatrics by lots of misguided people. But nonono. She knew better, she did. She could never see the tinytiny eardrums of those tinytiny infants, brought in by their terrified parents worried that they had ear infections. She also knew that she just couldn't take a life of constantly reassuring those worriedworried parents. But most of all, she knew if she went into peds, she'd have ended up in prison for having messily and publicly murdered the first person she came across to abuse a child. Either that or she'd have offed herself after the first time she made a mistake that endangered a child.

No. Peds it was not to be, fun as it was. She did learn how to give a good shot, though. How vaccinations would happen in the out patient clinic was someone would have a small child who needed several vaccines and the call would go out to all available nurses, nurse practitioners and me, the lone med stud. As soon as we had enough bodies, each armed with a syringe, we'd sidle on up to the tot, peacefully resting in the arms of a trusted adult. We'd each grab a limb, syringe firmly grasped in the other hand and, on the count of three, we would simultaneously stab the little angel, instantaneously transforming them into a howling, sobbing devil, complete with bright red complexion, banshee howls and visage of doom and destruction.

They said this was apparently less traumatic than giving each shot separately. Maybe they were right. I think there were studies quoted. There are always studies quoted in medical education. There seemed to be about the same amount of screaming this way as there was when my own two got their shots, one at a time, and there wasn't all the distressing repeat performance for the subsequent injections that happened with giving them in series.

The other thing I remember was that lunch and a show was provided each noon. Lunch was usually some sort of sandwich assortment and the show was usually something along the lines of "Pediatric Eczema and You" or "Meningococcemia: Know it. Fear it." Good times. The peds residents and attendings were also a happy, cheerful bunch, almost to a person.

I'm sure they were all heavily drugged or lobotomized. Perhaps both.

So that's that for the third year of med school. The rotation that was by far the most fun was the one I'd known from the start that I had no desire to pursue. I'm sure there's some sort of life lesson in that but I'm damned if I'm going to learn from it.

Now, the fourth year of med school is sort of like the third, but the rotations are usually smaller bites and you have to decide what the hell you want to go off and be an indentured servant for at the end of the year. You get to take ENT ("otorhinolaryngology" for those who crave big, multi-sylabic words) and learn to use the head mirror (that mirror thingy that olde-tyme docs wore strapped to their foreheads), which is actually really hard to use. At least it was for me. There's this trick to peering through the hole in the middle while focusing the light from the lamp across the room that reflects off the mirror and into the patient's throat, all while using an angled mirror (like the dentist uses) to see around the bend in the throat to examine the vocal chords, while NOT making the patient vomit all over you by inadvertantly bumping the back of their throat with the mirror. Of course, now-a-days, you'd just use a head lamp to see, or, even better, a fiberoptic laryngoscope, so you could actually see 'round the bend of the throat and not make everything thing up. ("Oh, yeah! I see it! That bitty nodule on the miniscule vocal chord. Really. I see it. Promise.")

You'd also do a week or two in ophthalmology (the eyeball guys), and get really skeezed out by all things horrible and eyebally. (The worst? The enucleation surgeries where they removed the whole damned eye for some sort of hellacious tumor or other. Heart rending and really gross. Yeah team.) Why the hell anyone would want to go into that was beyond me, but they did. It was a highly sought after residency. Blech. Two of my friends went into it. I'd always thought them sane, but I had to reconsider after that.

There was a week spent in the auditorium doing Law And Medicine, which scared the shit out of us. "YOU WILL BE SUED." "IT WILL BE HORRIBLE." "YOU WILL WANT TO KILL YOURSELF." "THIS IS NORMAL." "YOU WILL THEN TURN TO COPIOUS DRINK AND/OR DRUGS." "THIS WILL RESULT IN THE LOSS OF YOUR PRACTICE AND YOUR LICENCE AND YOUR FEW SHARDS OF SELF RESPECT." "HERE ARE SOME MORE CAUTIONARY TALES OF REAL PHYSICIANS, EACH ONCE A WONDERFUL, PROMISING PROFESSIONAL, NOW TO BE FOUND UNDER THE BURNSIDE BRIDGE WITH THE DISBARRED LAWYERS AND OTHER BUMS." Gah. "But don't let that bother you."

There were several electives, like dermatology (oozy and dull and all the rashes looked like all the other rashes) and ICU (terrifying but cool); and you also had to take neurology (oh, good GOD the damned neurologists and their 5+ hour attending rounds with nary a chair in sight; oh, how we all hated neurology with all their fiddly tests that never worked like the books said and their confounding and complicated tracts and cross-tracts. Like learning the wiring of an enormous 1910 house.)

And then, there was surgery. And the sirens called. Oh, yes they did.

But I am tired and there are children to be put to bed. So I will leave you here with images of eyeballs and rashes and a line of drooling, incontinent patients (and students) with horrible neurological diseases in your heads.

Because I'm not a pediatrician and, therefore, not nice like that.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Jocelyn said...

And don't I want to know the particulars of why surgery fit who you are?

Yes, I do.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Dumdad said...

Eyeballs and lawsuits: I sometimes wonder why anyone would want to be in the medical profession!

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on a dental malpractice case as a juror. I really learned a lot of cranial anatomy. I also learned that you should really take great and complete chart notes. The dentist didn't and almost lost his shirt, but I picked up on one comment by the defense that I could hang my hat of to find for the defendant. What a nice person am I.

The Ole RF-er

1:29 PM  
Anonymous DianeCA said...

I remember so good taking my first son to get his shots. His looking happily and trustfully at the nurse who commented how beautiful he was...and then stuck 'em! He was completely crushed! I feel sorry for those that have to do this day after day although I know it may save more lives than any other kind of medicine. I truly enjoyed your med school anticdotes, especially about the LAW part of the study hehehe!

3:20 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

You know, I am already freaking out because I wake up every morning with the eye gunk and sometimes there are eye gunk strings. But that's okay, what a better image someone having their eye removed makes...eek!

Although I think that if I ever wanted to have surgery again, I'd like you to do it.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Ariella said...

I resent the implication that disbarred attorneys would hang out with doctors that lost their license to practice.

Also, I think I could teach your medical ethics class.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Wow. Riveting as always. How does anyone ever make it through med school?

I think my grandfather must have had that enucleation operation at some point. He had a glass eyeball. It fell out of his eye once and bounced across the floor, terrifying me.

1:12 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

You put that bit about the fiberoptic laryngoscope in there just to remind me of my own hellish experience with that new piece of technology. It IS pretty amazing to watch the video of the opening and closing vocal cords. I never knew anything so itsy bitsy as a vocal cord cyst could cause so much pain.

7:56 PM  
Blogger moegirl said...

Wow- I so respect you. I could not have made it through any of that.

It would be hard to be a peditrician. Esp. with the parents. Allie had so many blasted ear infections when she was an infant I was at the doctor all the time.

I think the eyeball removal and the oozey rash thing would have definitely washed me out of med school had I gone that route.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Ambitious Blonde said...

I'm right there with you on the pediatrics thing. It's not the kids, it's the parents....

I STILL haven't figured out a specialty. But we got to see the cadavers today, and ours had uterine cancer. NEVEREVEREVER gonna be late on a Pap test again, so help me Graf.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Janelle said...

as previously mentioned i am always indelibly impressed and in awe of doctors, dentists and pilots. cor! great read! bloody (ahem) funny too! xx bisous xx janelle

8:05 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Surgery? No shit. Well I'll be.

I am sitting in the library like a furtive junkie, writing my senior thesis on the perils of hyperglycemia and atherosclerosis and the woeful lack of fuck all to do about it, eating a piece of contraband chocolate cake and catching, gleefully, up with you.

2:15 PM  

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