how i got outed on surgery

27 Apr

There were a few instances on my medicine clerkship when it was tough keeping the pregnancy secret.  Trying to show up to rounds without smelling like vomit or, as was the case with one very special patient, having to internally repeat to myself while performing a diabetic foot examination: “I will not puke on a patient today.  I will not puke on a patient today.”–not some of my finest student moments but, in retrospect, pretty comical.  (I can’t imagine what this hopelessly foul-smelling diabetic patient must have thought of his student-doctor, visibly turning green in front of him.)  For the most part, however, I doubt anyone suspected I was in the family way.

Surgery was different.  It was made clear that discretion was not an option.

On day two, I showed up early to OR 8 to prepared for the first surgery.  The 50-something-year-old male scrub nurse was there and I introduced myself.  We talked about the other staff that would be present, the protocols, and other specifics of the procedure.  Then:

Him: It’s unusual for this OR, but we have to use x-ray with fluoroscopy.  I have to ask, there’s no chance you could be pregnant, right?

Me: Uh…yeah.

Him (visibly taken aback): What?!  Well, how pregnant do you think you are?

Me: I think I’m like 11 weeks pregnant.

Him: Uh…yeah, you can’t be here.

At this point, he ushered me out of the room and pulled me in and out of the neighboring ORs, each time announcing to the room, “Hey, got any interesting cases?  Using x-ray?  Anna here is with child, we can’t have her in 8.”  God, I felt so poorly that my classmate had to switch ORs with me.  She had read up and prepared for all her cases ahead of time and offered me all her notes of the procedures I was now scrubbing into to which I had previously known nothing about.  A class act.

I was really worried that the director of the Surgical Trauma rotation, which I started on Monday, would make me switch out due to x-ray exposure.  He’s one of my doctoring preceptors, so I approached him about it last week.  His response was an adorable mixture of hardcore goal-oriented wonder surgeon and soft, cuddly papa-bear:

Do not think for a second of keeping this secret!  Make your pregnancy known to everyone in the Trauma Bay.  Wear two layers of lead while in the bay.  There’s a blue line surrounding each bed that is 6 feet away.  Double that distance when an x-ray is called.  Don’t forget that we’re a team.  We will protect you.  will protect you.  Oh, and realize that your life is going to get SO much better.  You thought you life was good now; well, it’s going to skyrocket come–when is your kid due?  October?!  That’s even better.  S/He’ll be one of the oldest in the grade.  Read Outliers.  You’ll see, that’s a really good thing.

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12 Responses to “how i got outed on surgery”

  1. Toni Lupro April 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Your classmate seems like a *wonderful* girl; I can just imagine some people half-pouting!

    • annaojesus April 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Aw, yes, she IS wonderful! She didn’t even bat an eye, although I think she was a bit surprised by the news 🙂

  2. Jill Blasingame April 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    It’s out now and you shouldn’t be shy about telling folks so that you protect this little one. And that is one amazing colleague.

    • annaojesus April 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

      Thanks, Jill! Are you referring to my classmate or the director of Surgical Trauma? Both are pretty amazing!

  3. leftbrainedcreativity April 28, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    That last paragraph by the director of Surgical Trauma may have been the best thing I’ve read in about a year or so. *That’s* the kind of support we all need!

    • annaojesus April 28, 2012 at 11:01 am #

      I’m so glad you feel that way–I was pretty blown away. He comes off all gruff at first, but he’s such a softy. All you have to do to make him crack is ask how his daughter the quarterback is doing on the flag football team 🙂 And this show of support might just pale to what he shows his patients on a daily basis, it’s amazing! Thanks for the note!

  4. ahyesplans April 28, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    The Director sounds amazing! It’s great that he is so supportive. And when you said your child was due in October, I immediately thought of Outliers too. Your kid will have a leg up on his/her classmates!

    • annaojesus April 28, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      Thank you! I feel the same way–don’t see myself as a surgeon, but really hope I’m half the doctor he is. And I guess I really need to read this book now! I have a long list of reads for the two weeks off I have this summer and the 5 days between when my maternity leave starts and the kiddo is due. Let me know if you have other suggestions. Thanks again!

      • ahyesplans April 29, 2012 at 1:25 am #

        It’s great that you’ll have some time to read! (Am I totally off in thinking that I can manage to squeeze in a chapter a night during med school?)

        I’m crazy about the magical realism genre, so anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende is a must-read on my list- notably 100 Years of Solitude, ALL of his short stories, and House of the Spirits or Island Beneath the Sea by Allende. But as for other influential books that changed the way I saw life, I highly recommend The Seven Types of Ambiguity (Perlman) and The Poisonwood Bible (Kingsolver)- and of course The Lacuna. Amazing read, with some art history thrown in 🙂

        For medical-ish books: Cutting for Stone (Verghese), Complications (Gawande), The Tiger’s Wife (Obrecht)… these are all off the top of my head but I’m sure I’ll think of more later.

        Just picked up Sacré Bleu tonight (and by picked up I mean it was $20 at Barnes and Noble, so I bought it for $13 on my iPhone) and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll let you know if it’s as good as the reviews!

        PS- Check out Good Reads, they have great recommendations based on the literature you rank. 🙂

  5. ahyesplans April 29, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    I forgot- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Medically-oriented and great book. Are you a fan of hers? I recommend going through all of her books, but before reading Truth and Beauty you *have* to read Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face. Okay, done with books for real this time.

    • annaojesus April 29, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

      Whoa! This. Is. Amazing. Thank you!!! I’m so embarrassed that my reading outside of school has dropped close to zero in favor of watching mind-numbing momentary release-from-life trash TV, then falling asleep to _Surgical Recall_ (the ultimate guide to how to survive pimping). I do think, however, if it’s a priority, you can definitely make time in med school for literature. Is it completely unreasonable to fantasize that, during my time at home with the little un, I might be able to read a quick chapter or two while the kid is nursing or something? I can dream, right?

      As for your suggestions, I adore everything by Marquez and Isabel Allende, I actually preferred Gawande’s _Better_ (though enjoyed _Complications_ very much), but unfortunately _The Poisonwood Bible_ is one of the few books I was just never able to finish–I don’t understand, all my best girlfriends LOVE it, but I never got into it :/ I’ve wanted to read _Cutting for Stone_ for what seems like ages and now, thanks to you, it, _The Seven Types of Ambiguity_, and _Autobiography of a Face_ are at the top of my list! Thank you again. Would you mind if I shared your recommendations with others (possibly, if I get my butt in gear, in a post)? No pressure, of course, they are your (great) suggestions, and you should definitely write about them if you’re inclined.

      • ahyesplans April 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

        By all means feel free to share and write about those books! I keep meaning to write more posts about books, but let’s face it, I’m a bit lazy when it comes to blogging. 🙂 And I truly believe that good books need to be publicized by bookies because sometimes it’s so hard to judge by random people’s reviews!

        As for The Poinsonwood Bible, I’ve heard similar stories- same goes for Cutting for Stone as well. I’ve absolutely loved them but some of my close friends have hated them. I think it has a lot to do with what you expect from the beginning of the story. For instance, I love Ann Patchett, so when I first started reading State of Wonder and I was annoyed with the main character I decided to just put it down and get back to it later. A few months later, I started it and wondered why I disliked it in the first place. (I really loved it, although I still felt the main character was very aloof and hard to relate to.)

        Let me know what you think of The Seven Types of Ambiguity and Autobiography of a Face! You know, in all your spare time for reading 🙂

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