Why I can never be a medical professional

learnbing to be a med professional


A few days ago, I was lying on a gurney, lightly anesthetized, waiting to be taken into an operating room to have a feeding tube implanted. They’d parked me in a hallway; I was like a plane idling waiting to take off at an airport. (To be honest, I wasn’t so much idling as eavesdropping on doctors’ telephone conversations and studying the pattern of the ceiling panels.)

The receiving nurse, Rose, introduced herself and patted me on the shoulder (to reassure me, I think, and also to reassure herself that I wasn’t going to be difficult.) Then she busied herself with the ten thousand other things that seem to be going on in her department.

Then two new characters appeared: a fortyish woman, very pert and charming, and a tall younger woman, trying very hard to look bright and eager. They presented themselves to Nurse Rose. “Hi,” the older woman said. “I’m Professor Dunbar from the nursing school, and this is Katie, our nurse trainee.” She giggled briefly. “We want Katie to have an endoscopy day.”

“That’s fine,” Rose said. “The nursing staff is okay with it, and you don’t even have to ask the docs, because they’re okay with it too. All you have to do is ask the patients if it’s okay.”

She and Professor Dunbar slowly turned to face me, with sweet smiles. Katie didn’t know right away what to do, but caught on quickly. “Hi,” she said to me brightly. “Is it okay if I observe – ?”

“Of course,” I said.

As they wheeled me into the operating area, I heard Rose tell Katie: “This isn’t the usual thing – not an endoscopy or a colonoscopy. This is the implanting of a feeding tube. You won’t be seeing many of these.”

I lay in the operating area for about fifteen minutes, listening to the nurses chatting around me. They’d faced me toward the clock, and all of them were behind me, so I had a hard time connecting names and faces; there were at least four of them, I think, including Trainee Katie. Rose showed Katie the various kinds of equipment they’d be using, and now and then a new nurse would introduce herself to me and ask my name and birthdate. My blood pressure was through the roof, and I kept having to reassure them that, yes, I’d taken my medication that morning, and that my through-the-roof reading (190/90) was unusual for me; before my diagnosis, I was usually more like 135/85.

Then my gastroenterologist came into the room. I find him cute: he’s short and stocky and has a sharp expressive face. He kept leaning with one elbow on my gurney as he talked to me. I could tell that this was just a routine procedure to him, and I was very comforted by that, and by his casualness, and by the way he insisted on shaking my hand, even though I was draped with all kinds of tubes and sensors.

It was over in an hour or less. A little after that, I was revived in the post-op area and given cranberry juice.

Also, I had a huge plastic tube sticking out of my midsection.

I keep thinking about Katie, the nurse trainee. No doubt she learned something that morning, watching my feeding tube being implanted (it’s a quick process, but a very involved one). How did she feel about it? Did she wince when they made the incision into my belly?

I’m fascinated by medicine, but I know I could never be a practicing doctor or nurse.

The things they see! The things they have to do!


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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

4 Responses to Why I can never be a medical professional

  1. Can’t even imagine doing the things they have to do…

  2. starproms says:

    I agree with tangly cottage. I suppose they get used to it, but for us ordinary mortals, it really is amazing. Will you still be able to burp, I wonder?

    • Everything hurt for the first day or two. Burping was first to come back, then coughing. Sneezing is still painful, but I can manage it. Laughing hurts. Wouldn’t you know it?

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