In Awe

By Andrea Tesolin – Class of 2017

It was bright and early the first time I observed a surgery – 7 a.m. I was no longer tired from the subway ride. I had just put on scrubs for the first time and was sporting a blue hairnet, shoe covers and facemask. I was an even mix of excitement and nervousness. I had never watched a surgery before, and was worried about how I would handle it. Would I feel nauseous or pass out? Would I love it and then want to be a surgeon? No way. I smile – I already know from shadowing that the surgeon life is not for me. I just hoped to get through it without tripping on something.

I walked into the room and was greeted by the neurosurgeon. He was wearing his usual glasses and I noticed he had tucked his scrub shirt into his scrub pants, which were tied above his belly button. Of course he would – that is so him. He then introduced me to the patient who was about to be operated on. She was very friendly and seemed mentally prepared for the surgery, as she did not seem to be anxious at all. I admired this about her, and liked her instantly. I watched as anesthesia put her under. I thought that she looked so different once intubated and unconscious, which slightly saddened me. The change from vibrant lady to limp body hooked up to machines was quite striking to me, perhaps because it made her look so much less dignified.

It was then time for the surgery to begin. Her entire body was covered in blue, sterile paper. This changed the scene quite a bit. Since only a patch of her head could be seen, the compassion I felt while looking at her lifeless body had somehow diminished. Her head was shaved in preparation: short salt and pepper locks fell into the garbage bag. They doused the area with some sort of iodine solution of a rusty reddish colour. It didn’t look very nice, as it appeared a bit like the patient was very bloody before she had even been cut open yet. Then they injected epinephrine into the scalp and I watched the skin stretch like a balloon before it quickly settled back down again. This was to constrict the blood vessels to minimize bleeding, which I found extremely interesting. It seemed like it worked well considering there was much less bleeding than I anticipated.

The first cut gently sliced open her scalp to reveal a thin red line of blood. No spewing or large drips, very controlled. Then they peeled the scalp back, exposing thin, pink layers of muscle stretched against the skull. Once the muscle was also moved, the skull was cut open to access the brain. They called it a bone flap. A spinning saw was used to puncture 4 holes, which were then connected to form a rectangle of bone that would be removed. The saw buzzed at a high-pitched frequency. Shavings of bone flew like dust particles in the air. I watched in awe, not breathing even though I was wearing a mask. Once the piece was removed, I saw a pulsating organ covered in slimy pink dura. “The brain pulses?!” I thought. Then they carefully snipped the dura open. The magnificent reveal. The convoluted brain, so intricate and fragile, light pink and pulsating in a pool of translucent fluid. Red and grey blood vessels ran along in winding paths with liquid visibly passing through them. It was beautiful. At that moment, my concerns for feeling queasy were cast aside, and I knew I was incredibly interested in and amazed by the process of surgery. Seeing the brain first hand was truly captivating, and I was completely enthralled while watching the entire procedure.

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