ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 04

The bizarre world that is the operating theatre

Intern’s diary by Anedu

The theatre, or to be exact, the operation theatre is a strange place. Everyone is masked and wearing pyjamas. All precautions are taken to maintain a sterile environment. The science of surgery has come a long way from the days of those gruesome amputations without anaesthesia or sterility. But for all the modern attempts at making it look aesthetic, surgery is still a traumatic experience. The theatre is also a place of strange etiquette, all in the name of maintaining sterility.

But for a newcomer, some of these methods seem totally bizarre, like the practice of wearing boots that are only kept inside the theatre but smell like hell!, like scrubbing up before wearing sterile gloves, like having ten people breathing out a million germs inside the room and maintaining a sterile air space over the operating table! And you’d think they would have found a better way of piecing things up again than stitching.

This, I’m sure, would save a million theatre hours and thus many lives as well. (It’s sometimes painful to watch the surgeon take hours to laboriously stitch something up!). The most horrible part is when you are called upon to assist at surgery. Being no surgeon yourself you are stretched to the limit to guess what the surgeon expects of you. “Hold that retractor tight and this tissue forcep gently”: it’s a guessing game where you are always half a second behind!

The only good thing is the surgeons know you are lost and have considerable patience, like when you let go of the appendix they spent half an hour searching for! The anaesthetists too expect miracles from the house officer. When blood is needed for the patient it is your duty to make sure that it reaches the operating room as fast as possible.

The problem with the process is that people outside the theatre have little idea of the urgency of the matter. Most depend on the attendant who actually goes to the blood bank to get the blood. But for the anaesthetist inside the theatre 10 minutes is a lot of time so it is from you that they will ask ‘where is the blood?’ (every two minutes!).

Another startling thing is that almost everything except the manpower used for surgery is from abroad. Even the distilled water used for injections is from Pakistan! Like in many spheres, it seems that we had little to offer of our own, except the skills of our surgeons.

And then there is the story of the children who are kept fasting before and after the surgery. Some children are kept fasting for days and days after surgery. A saline line to their veins is their only source of nutrition.

All this is done for the patient’s own good to prevent them from becoming terribly sick. And then when they are allowed to eat, they are for sometime kept on a liquid diet.

If you have heard tales of children who are hard to feed then these children will for sure appreciate the ability to actually eat, for the rest of their lives.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.