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My time to shine!

Written on: Friday July 27th, 2007

A journal entry from: Elective

While we'd been in the hospital earlier on in the day, we left the number of our house phone so that people could contact us if anything interesting turned up in the hospital. Being only across the road, it wouldn't take us long to walk over and check it out, so we figured we might as well. The other med students had all gone to the Boab Inn for a spot of karaoke, but we gave it a miss, still feeling pretty tired.

In fact, I was already away to bed at about half past nine, when the phone rang in the living room. I listened out for speaking, thinking (well, hoping!) that it might be Martyn calling, but nobody came to my door to get me, so I disappointedly settled back down in bed.  About a minute later, there was an urgent knock on my door, and I answered to a very excited Sophie, telling me that the phone call was from the hospital, offering us the chance to help out in an emergency Caesarean section that was just about to take place. All the tiredness miraculously vanished from my body, as I leapt out of bed and got ready as quickly as possible.

We raced over to the hospital (ok, so it took us all of two minutes, if that, but still!), and headed to the Emergency Department, where we were directed to theatre by one of the helpful orderlies. We donned our scrubs, hats, and shoe covers, and headed through to the theatre area, buzzing with anticipation. As we entered the operating theatre, we could see a young Aboriginal girl sitting on the edge of the bed, amidst crowds of medical staff. She had been in labour since the early hours of the morning, and it had stopped progressing so the baby was becoming distressed, and needed to be gotten out as soon as possible. The anaesthetist was trying his best to perform a nerve block, as it's far more preferable to keep a lady awake while a C-section is carried out. However, the girl was very skinny, and he was finding it extremely difficult to find the right place with the needle, so eventually it was decided that a general anaesthetic was the only option.

At this point, Gary, the obstetrician, decided that one of us could scrub in for the operation, and since I'd never scrubbed in before, Sophie kindly volunteered me for the job! I was majorly excited, and went through to the basin, where Gary took me through the correct procedure of scrubbing in and gowning up. Once I was fully kitted out, with sterile surgical gown, mask (I'd been warned there could be some risk of liquids squirting), and gloves, I passed back through to the theatre, and took my place at the side of the operating table.

Normally, when I'm in theatre, I get very unsteady on my feet, as it gets so hot in there, but this time I was completely focused on the job in hand, and all my faintness was absent. As Gary made the first incision, he described the long-since forgotten anatomy to me, giving me a crash course in abdominal anatomy which was definitely well-needed! As he opened the peritoneum, I got my first chance to help out, as he had me pulling the peritoneum open - a tear heals better than a clean incision. I soon realised that to be a surgeon's assistant, you need to be pretty strong, and I'm not sure I was fully up to the job, but I gave it a good shot anyway.

The incision in the uterus revealed that the baby had been swimming in meconium - a thick, gloopy, green liquid that is the baby's first bowel movement. This showed that it had been in some distress, and so all the meconium had to be evacuated, before we could get to the baby. Once that job was done, it was time to do some more pushing, to get the child out of the uterus. I had to place one fist at the top of the uterus, and deliver strong pushes at Gary's command. It took some doing, but eventually we could see the head. I was a little concerned at this point, as the baby's face was a deep blue, and so the forceps were grabbed to get the baby out quicker. Once the head was out of the body, the doctors realised that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the child's neck three times, so quickly unravelling it, the baby was fully delivered and handed over to the paediatricians, who were waiting to take over. Sophie got to help out on that side of things, which was great, as she loves paediatrics and I secretly (or not so secretly now) think that she'll specialise in paeds once qualified!

The rest of the operation was pretty standard - the placenta was removed (absolutely massive!), and then the wounds were closed up with various types of stitching, before all the necessary, yet tedious, paperwork could be filled out. I was given a bit of a lecture on the importance of paperwork with regards to liability, and then told I could leave, and find Sophie and Dr McAdam. I was feeling really proud of myself, particularly as my hands had not shaken at all during the surgery - a trait which normally convinces me I could never be a surgeon. The doctor who performed the operation even congratulated me on a job well done, and said he thought I had the makings of an obstetrician - how exciting!

When we finally got back to the house, we were both full of energy, and raving about how amazing it had been. It was hard going to bed after something so incredible had happened, but as is the case, we had an early start again in the morning (oh, the life of a doctor eh?) and so had to force ourselves to get to bed, and get some sleep. We did deduce though, before we went to bed, that our night had been far more exciting than karaoke!