Margaret's Grand Adventure at OHSU: my final days there part 2

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 Dr. Hansen explained to me that more is not always better when it comes to screening, because if she finds something she has to do something about it, and that could lead to more complicated and less ideal situations. For example, if she could screen for one thing and instead find another—say, a benign tumor in the colon. If she operates on that tumor, even though it will most likely never become malignant, and there’s a complication, it could result in a hernia and cause havoc. So, while I think that I would always prefer to know what is going on with my body, I can understand not treating everything we could potentially find. There is a gene that can predispose a person for breast cancer, and I would love to know whether or not I have it, and I hope that I would have the courage to face the likely possibility of cancer. Angelina Jolie just had a preemptive bilateral mastectomy because of this gene, and I dearly hope that her bravery and openness give other women the strength to fight their battles.

 
In the clinic we saw a patient who had fallen and badly injured her head. She developed a large swelling “goose egg” on her forehead, the bump wouldn’t go away entirely, and some of the internal blood fragments traveled down the woman’s face and collected in the sub dermal facial crevices. We also met with a patient who had accidently amputated both her pointer and middle fingers, and she needed her stitches removed. Another patient needed his leg removed after a host of other procedures failed, and another patient sustained several facial fractures and needed screws and bolts to set everything back into place. Another patient broke his mandible and another patient needed tendon repair in both of their arms after attempting to commit suicide.
 
 
In the OR the surgeons use an instrument called a “Bovie” or a cauterizing stick. The surgeons use the scalpel very little—mostly just to cut through skin—and the Bovie does the rest. What I didn’t realize until near the end of my time at OHSU is that the Bovie is sending electric charged into the patient and is cauterizing through electrical burns. The surgeons wear two pairs of gloves (one rubber and one latex), and the patients lay on grounding pads to prevent either one from getting hurt. The most fascinating part is that if the surgeon cannot reach a tight or hard to get to spot, he or she can take their surgical tweezers, place the tip on the hard spot, and tap the end with the Bovie. Since electricity conducts well through metal, the hidden spot is zapped. I had no idea how much physics was used in a biological and chemical procedure!
 
 
Some final anecdotes include that I couldn’t touch anything in blue because it was sterile (“don’t touch the blue, or the nurses will kill you”), and I had to stand for many hours at a time and fell in love with my Dansko clogs (a little shameless product placement; every person at OHSU wears them…every). Over the course of my time at OHSU I witnessed some part of surgical and healing process behind breast reductions, breast reconstructions, preemptive and post cancer mastectomies, breast implantations, and breast tissue expander implantations. During surgery the tissue expanders—which can be filled with fluid via a long needle and expand to stretch the skin to make room for an implant—can be taken out of their packaging, placed in a person for sizing, be taken out, and re-sterilized. The implants, on the other hand, cannot be re-sterilized, and once they’re out of their packaging they have to be used or thrown away.
 
 
The attending surgeons, attending anesthesiologists, surgical residents, nurse anesthetists, circulating nurses, and scrub techs all work together as a close team in the OR, and they each do their own job to make sure the patient receives the best care. For each job there are a million was to arrive in the OR, and while there are so many ways to get to the same room, peoples’ priorities don’t change: save a life. They huddle before and after a surgery to ensure that patients receive the correct and best care, and the nurses count all the tools repeatedly to avoid objects being left in patients. It’s a terribly tricky job, putting people back together, and I have such respect fur plastic surgeons and anesthesiologists, and their entire team. As the anesthesiologists say, anyone can put someone to sleep; the trick is waking them up again.

I has such a wonderful time and would like to thank my lovely mentor, Dr. Julie Hansen, her fantastic residents, the entire OHSU staff, and my senior project teacher advisor, Veronica Ledoux. This has been a fantastic month, and i hope to stay in touch often.

All my love,
Margaret

Comments

Thank you!!!

You are a beautiful blogstress and a beautiful person. Hope the time in the San Juans is FABULOUS!!

Nichole

What a great experience you've had!

And you even got to recall a little science II physics...