Scalpel's Edge

A surgeon's notes

Discovering the world again

Over the last few weeks, I was lucky enough to assist two surgeons on their private operating lists. Basically, every surgeon needs some sort of assistance. If you want to cut in a straight line, you need to have someone hold the tissues taut for you. Also the inside operative cavity is often bigger than the outside cut, so you need someone to hold open the edges. Sort of like how I would hold open a Christmas stocking for my kids to rifle through. And if you have contacts and a bit of operative experience, you can get the chance to be that helper.

So for the first time in 18 months (including 12 months maternity leave), I changed into scrubs, got my arms yellow, and felt like a real doctor again.

It was so cool. In a couple of long tiring sessions, I remembered what my life is about. Not cannulating rodent bile ducts, but fighting honest disease in real people.

It helps that I was assisting two young surgeons, who I like and respect. And they were doing nice surgery – challenging cases, which weren’t so extreme as to be “surgery on a dare”. But research also has a completely different focus – more solitary, more disease focussed. Surgery is about skills and relationships (believe it or not) – with staff, patients and your inner doctor. I had completely forgotten how it felt.

Thanks Malcolm and Richard, for reminding me of where I am headed.

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