You’ve just got to throw yourself into it! I told myself. Everyone has to start somewhere! Even HE started somewhere! I could feel my heart beating hard now. If it weren’t for the coarse surgical gown and my poorly gloved hands resting on my chest, I have no doubts the whole theatre could have seen it. In reality it’d been racing for what felt like hours now. Jump started by the grilling I’d received in the staffroom. He’d treated the nurses, doctors and other surgeons to quite the show whilst they wolfed down their lunch.
I don’t even want to be a surgeon. How do you know? You even haven’t tried it. I argued with myself, but there was no going back. I tentatively shuffled over to the operating table. The young boy whose hand I’d shaken hours ago, now a 40cm by 10cm abdomen laid in front of me. He, the consultant who I’d been shadowing all morning, beckoned me to come closure, pointing for me to stand at the end of the table where the boys’ legs were. I stood, knees shaking like I’d just run a marathon and sweating like it too, now ready to begin the first ever surgical experience of my career.
I did very little but stand for the first hour, however it felt like just ten minutes. I watched the scalpel trace thin red lines over the boy’s abdomen, only to be replaced by small pools of a thick red liquid. Blood, human blood, the boy’s blood. But before I could dwell, they we’re swiftly wiped away, and the surgery began. Scopes, levers and cutting instruments invading those small incisions, carrying out their delicate and intricate work. However it was impossible for me to appreciate it. My mind was consumed by the echo of one thought: don’t mess up, don’t be THAT guy; the guy who passes out. And with each reverberated echo my legs sagged heavier and my heart beat faster and faster and faster.
“Can you hold this for me a second?” my arm unconsciously sprang away from my chest, opening my hand ready to receive. Ready to receive what? I didn’t care; all I could notice was the sweat beading underneath the two layers of gloves that I’d fumbled on an hour before. That’s when the registrar placed the end of a long, brownish tube into my hand, collapsing as I closed my hand around it.
He’d placed human bowel into my naive open palm. This is it I thought I’m a goner. I’d almost braced myself for impact, when I was overcome by a feeling of sudden amazement. I was holding onto a human bowel!
As I began to inspect the rough brown exterior of the tube, noting the ridges and areas of black decay as I scoured it’s length, my legs began to steady and my heart slowed. The nerves I’d felt 15 seconds before replaced by fascination for the organ’s I’d spent the last two years of my life studying. It quickly dawned on me that the human body, it’s components; even those components being cut into, had never been the root of my anxieties.
The fear of failure was the reason my heart had almost escaped my chest, why my body was now drenched in sweat, and why I’d spent the first hour of my first-ever surgical experience, only thinking about not passing out. The fear of failure had been planted back in that staffroom, and watered by every derogatory comment he’d made. But I had learnt something from today. I was right, I didn’t want to be a surgeon.