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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Surgical Dilemmas....For The Vet

I think it's pretty obvious to most people that surgery isn't easy, otherwise anyone could do it.  Believe me, it takes a long time to go from a three-hour spay (the length of my first one) to a 20-minute spay (my current average).   You also have the difficulties with certain vessels, organs, and other structures that can make a surgery a challenge, as well as unexpected events such as slowing heart rates, dropping blood pressure, and burst vessel, slipped sutures, and so on.  

But I don't want to talk about that today.  I want to talk about problems the surgeon has that most people don't think about.

First, have you ever considered what happens when we get an itch?  We are scrubbed up with disinfectant and are wearing surgical gloves, caps, masks, and gowns.  Our hands, arms, and a bit of our front is sterile, but the rest of us isn't.  What do we do when our ear itches?  Because you darn well know that is going to happen in the middle of a lengthy surgery!  We can't just reach up and scratch it because we'd break sterility and risk contaminating the patient with bacteria.  So what do we do?  I asked one of my professors this during vet school and he replied "If it's somewhere you would scratch in public or in front of your grandmother, you can ask an assistant to do it.  Otherwise you just have to learn to ignore it."  Good advice, and I've had assistants scratch a bad itch on my back or nose before.  But I've also had to learn how to deal with those intense itches on places like the inner thigh.  You seriously can't do anything about it, and have to go with the flow!  It's not always easy, but it's possible.

Sweating is another problem, though you can usually get someone to mop your brow.  After all, they do that all of the time on medical TV shows, right?  But sweat running under your cap and through your hair is just tough noogies, and even though it feels strange, you have to suck it up.

Before I started wearing contacts a couple of years ago I would sometimes have problems with my glasses fogging up or slipping down my nose.  There were some points where I felt that the glasses would fall off and fall into the abdomen, but thankfully I can get an assistant to push them back up.  Fogging can be prevented with a well-fitted surgical mask, but even so sometimes you get breath coming up around it.  Again, learn to deal.

But the absolute worst happens with a cold or allergies.  Imagine this....there you are with a loop of intestines between your fingers, trying to find that rock you saw on the x-rays.  All of a sudden you start feeling the all-too-familiar tingling in your nose.  You know it's coming and you try to wish it away, but it keeps building.  You can't step out of the room because you're in the middle of surgery.  Then it hits, and you sneeze....right into your surgical mask!  Well, that's certainly no fun, but then picture me...with a beard.  Yes, that has happened many times to me. I have a big sneeze right into my mask, and sometimes those sneezes are rather...ummm...."juicy".  There it is dripping down the mask, oozing from my nose, clinging to my beard and mustache.  And there ain't a *@#!*& thing I can do about it.  I have to feel that for however long the rest of the surgery takes before I can take my mask off and clean up.

So as you can see, surgical situations can be rather challenging at times.