Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

Haven't been much of a blogger lately, have I? The feeble excuse is my current run of back-to-back surgical clerkships but, as noted, that's pretty feeble.

These days pre-dawn rounds find me on Orthopaedics--which, charmingly, is still spelled with the "ae." Yesterday I wore the ortho "space suit" in the O.R. for the first time. It's a tall helmet with a frame, over which is draped a sterile head covering with a fully-enclosed faceplate. When assembled it looks sort of like the space helmets in 2001: A Space Odyssey. (I seem to be fixated on exotic medical headgear these days, don't I?) What with the surgical gown, a warm O.R., and possibly even a lead vest and skirt under there if the procedure includes radiography, it can get pretty hot inside, so the headpiece has a small fan for ventilation, powered by a battery pack that clips to your scrubs.

After I suited up in this contraption for the first time, I noticed that it began getting really, really warm in there. Really fast. Worse, the faceplate fogged over, blinding me. After a couple of minutes it was getting hard to breathe, and I started to feel faint. Of course, at this point I've already scrubbed and gowned for sterile conditions, so it's a big deal to "break scrub," or take anything off. Fortunately one of the techs noticed my distress and realized that my fan wasn't working. He ran to the storeroom, came back with a new battery pack, and got it hooked up. As the fan started blowing fresh, cool air into my oxygen-deprived microenvironment I regained consciousness and my faceplate quickly defrosted. I'm just glad I didn't go have to leave, or even go down on the floor (which does happen to people from time to time in the O.R.)--not the impression you want to make on your first day. Many thanks, attentive tech guy!

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At September 19, 2007 at 10:17 AM , Blogger Scott J. said...

I hope you at least had the presence of mind to scream and flail your arms wildly for a minute or two. Just to make it relatively entertaining and give them something to talk about.

It's surgery - lighten up, people!


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