The first cut- cutting skin and changing lives

Since my first taste of the OR, I have been busy getting to do more procedures and assisting with various other surgery perks.

These include EGDs, colonoscopies, rectal exams, excision of masses on a man’s thigh and on a woman’s face, lidocaine injections, sutures, and the always fun yet never perfect patient histories.

The thigh mass was, per my surgeon’s words, a “simple in-office, quick procedure.” For me, it was all but that! It was an exciting opportunity to practice injections, learn how living tissue feels under a scalpel (for the record, it is VERY different than cadaver skin…), and work on my cautery skills. We started by injecting Lidocaine. My surgeon handed me the syringe and I stood holding it, expecting him to take it from me when he was ready. When he asked “hello? are you going to numb up our patient?” I was shocked, confused, and giddy with excitement. I had never done a real injection before! And he trusted me! It was difficult to get the depth correct, but once I did, it was amazing. Being able to take someone’s pain away with the push of a little bit of liquid is a pretty powerful feeling. No wonder surgeons are sometimes regarded as gods. After the injection, we cut through epidermis. Here again, I was handed the scalpel and stood, waiting for further instruction, when my surgeon gently encouraged me to make the first cut, instructing me as to the proper angle and pressure to apply. It takes more pressure than you would think! Our skin is pretty thick. So don’t worry, future patients of mine. I’m apparently too gentle with a scalpel (which I don’t believe is a bad problem to have!). The excision was beautiful, the mass was excised in one piece because it was encapsulated, and we sent it off to pathology with the impression that it was a benign lipoma. He let me suture him up and I got to practice and improve my instrument tie suturing (which we didn’t learn- we only learned 1 and 2 handed ties! Luckily I read my supplemental surgical rotation book that has pictures…)

The second procedure we did I was a bit more confident… until I realized it was on a woman’s FACE. He again helped me deliver the Lidocaine, but I was a bit shaky when making the incision. He ended up having to take over because this mass was not subcutaneous, but subdermal- i.e. really deep and really bloody. And the mass wasn’t capsulated so we had to snip out bit by bit until it was all out. All while her face was draped with a small cloth and she was awake and speaking to us. Did I mention it was bloody? Needless to say, the procedure from start to end had me sweating bullets, but we successfully completed it, changing this woman’s life by giving her back her self confidence. THAT was a good feeling!

Since then, we have done some venous ablation, imaging studies, scheduled some exciting surgeries for later this week and next week (sadly, my last on surgery rotation!), and I’ve been spending some time with another general surgeon who specializes in bariatric surgery, which is a huge new field (pardon the pun… Ok, ok, it was on purpose).

I started this surgery rotation thinking “oh great, rectal exams and standing in the corner of an operating room. This should be interesting.” But that hasn’t been my experience at all. Not. At. All! The procedures I have seen and assisted with have all been thought-provoking. The rectal exams I have done have also been educational- they aren’t the plastic models we practiced on during second year: they are real people with real concerns about real cancers and scary family histories- and my simple exam is one way to calm their fears and rule out some of the terrifying possibilities. I don’t care how gross it may sound, but THAT is a humbling and wonderful opportunity. And I’ve decided to approach the rest of my rotations with this same attitude.

It may seem like a meaningless, “going through the motions” procedure or exam, but you truly can learn something from everyone. And who knows? In the process you just might change a life for the better.

Arizona!

We made it to our new home! And let me just say, we could not be happier! We have been crafting like crazy trying to fill our huge space… it is almost exactly twice the size of our Missouri home! With four bedrooms and over 1500 square feet, it’s been a challenge, but one that we have loved accepting!

DSCF2998

First, we got our Arizona licenses. That was interesting. In the state of Arizona, your license doesn’t expire until you’re 65. Yes. SIXTY FIVE. No picture change or anything. I can only hope I look like I do now at age 65. I had a mild panic attack thinking that far into the future. Another interesting thing: the Arizona DMV was pretty impressive. We were in and out in less than 30 minutes! I guess issuing people IDs every 40 years keeps traffic down!

24 hours after getting our licenses Phoenix decided to “haze” us (my sister’s words!) into being official residents. First, we found our first scorpion. I say first because, yes, we have found multiple (ok, only 3. And 2 were smaller than an inch. So really only 1 that was terrifying). The big scary one was dead when we found it and it hadn’t made it far into the house, so that helped. Researching the species revealed they are bark scorpions and therefore aren’t dangerous- actually, they’re helpful and eat the bad bugs… but I still don’t want them in our home so we had the house “sealed” by an exterminator the next day.

HABOOB

After our scorpion experience, we had the great pleasure of experiencing our first haboob and monsoon! Luckily we didn’t get caught driving in it, but man.. there were objects (leaves, trash, papers, etc!) flying through the air. The house was getting sand-blasted. Winds were 45+ mph, which doesn’t scare this Oklahoma girl, but the visibility literally went from day to night in less than 5 minutes. It was crazy to see that much dust kicked up into the air! We couldn’t even see over the neighbors house across the street and the sky completely disappeared. It was amazing to watch. Until we lost power. Luckily it returned about 45 minutes later. 

Since then our lives have been pretty action-packed. We have a list of restaurants (we’re big foodies, I guess you could say) so we have slowly been working our way down and crossing them off! The Desert Botanical Gardens were beautiful and we are currently researching how to start our own small succulent and cactus garden for our tiny backyard (we have 4 library books checked out on the subject!). We have hung out with Missouri friends and new Phoenix friends, found a church we love, welcomed another friend’s new baby girl into the world, and have entertained my parents for a weekend. Oh, and I started my surgery rotation! 

Here are just a couple photos of our new home decor and how I made them!

DSCF3096DSCF3102DSCF3075It was really difficult to get the animals to cooperate for these silhouette shots. After they did, I printed them at Kinkos, cut them out and used double-sided tape to stick ’em to the canvas then just spray painted it! Super quick and easy!Bella Bear pic

    
potterybarntable

This table is a knockoff of a $1200 pottery barn table. Can’t say I helped much with this… it was all my wonderful hubby’s work!

prepaintingpainting

This is our most recent artwork. We’re both sorta bad at doing the “random” thing, but I love how it turned out. And best of all, it takes up a huge blank spot on our stairway wall!

So there ya have it! Arizona life is suiting us well so far! I will be writing in detail about my surgery rotation shortly so stay tuned!