Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paging Dr. Gabel

Because my job involves a little bit of health coverage, on Tuesday and Wednesday I participated in a "mini-internship" with the Washoe County Medical Society to learn a little bit more about the medical profession.

I spent a half a day each with four doctors in internal medicine, pediatrics, general surgery and family practice. When I signed on for this a few weeks ago, they asked if I'd be interested in observing surgery and as soon as I said yes I started feeling nervous about it. The paperwork they sent didn't exactly help in that regard.

"At times, visitors faint while observing surgery ... if you experience any of the following symptoms, please immediately step out of the room and seek help," it said. The symptoms included a sudden feeling of warmth, diminished hearing, butterflies in your stomach, weakness, spinning, feeling like you are at a distance with the world, disorientation, blurred vision and nausea.

It's really not uncommon for me to feel nauseous or to have butterflies in my stomach, so I wondered if I'd really know the difference between just being my nervous self or if I was about to pass out. I envisioned all sorts of disasters.

When the time came, though, I was perfectly fine. I watched a laparoscopic gall bladder removal and a bilateral hernia. The weirdest part was when they made the incisions, but after that just watching the surgery was actually kind of cool. The anesthesiologist said I did well - even medical students sometimes feel faint when observing surgery and end up sitting in the corner so they don't pass out, he told me.

The other rotations were pretty cool, too. With the internal medicine doc, I did rounds at the hospital, visiting mostly patients in the ICU. Some of these were difficult, and for different reasons. I got choked up seeing one man's wife and daughter at his bedside and the way they held his hand and talked to him even though he couldn't respond, because it reminded me of those last few weeks with my stepdad. Luckily, this man's condition was improving. Other patients were difficult to see because they were partially responsible for their own conditions because of drug abuse or chronic smoking.

In pediatrics and family practice, I saw a variety of ailments and routine health checks and witnessed the relationships doctors develop with patients after a period of time.

All in all, it was a good experience. I learned a few things and walked away with some story ideas.

P.S. One of the surgeons had a little trouble pronouncing my name and introduced me to one of his patients as Tammy Kevorkian. Not sure that's a name someone in the hospital wants to hear.

P.P.S. The same surgeon is one of only a handful of people I've ever met who can eat as fast as me. Sometimes I clean my plate and look up and realize everyone else is only halfway done and I get embarassed. But apparently eating fast is a necessity when you're a busy surgeon.

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