Just Like the Guys at Veggie Tales

I don’t write a lot about my job here.  There’s lots of reasons for that.  One is just basic HIPPA, I could lose my job kind of stuff, but honestly I’m not that worried about it.  Mostly because the idea behind HIPPA is that medical information about particular identifiable patients isn’t shared but if I so desired I could almost certainly obscure what I was doing and when I did it sufficiently to prevent your knowing who I did it to.

Part of the reason that I don’t want to brag.  No really.  My job is so freaking cool that if I told you about you’d all just sit around all day thinking, Alison has the coolest job.  What can I do to be as cool as her? And the answer is you could get a job as a surg tech at the children’s hospital but I can’t guarantee that that’ll make you as cool as me.  There are plenty of other people who have my same job who are, alas, not as cool as I am.

However, despite all of those good reasons for not talking about my job I’m going to talk about my job today anyway.  Because it’s really cool.

When I finished my training and was looking for a job I thought I wanted to work anywhere but the children’s hospital.  Who wants to cup open babies after all?  I was sure that it would be too sad, too hard.  But then I didn’t get a job and I didn’t get a job and after a while I stared to get a little nervous and a little desperate.  So when I saw a listing of open jobs at Primary Children’s I applied.  And when they offer the job I accepted.

But I wasn’t that excited about it.

On my first day we were operating on a kid who was about the same age as the Pea (who was quite small at the time) that child had no interest in being operated on.  We tried chatting and singsonging and cajoling but he was having none of it.  So eventually the nurse and the anesthesiologist held him down while he screamed, put the mask with the inhaled anesthetic over his mouth and nose and within 15 seconds he was asleep*.  I was not a fan of this.  At this point I was pretty sure that this job wasn’t for me.

But I wasn’t going to quit without having something else lined up so I carried on.

Then, that Friday everything changed.  On Friday we did an exploratory laporotomy (surgical look into the belly to see what the heck is going on) on a baby that had been born that morning.  The baby was tiny and that was sad but the baby was also very unwell and that was really sad.  The problem was that we didn’t know what was wrong with him.  Until we got into his belly at which point we found that his intestines had twisted on themselves.  They had twisted so that nothing could pass effectively ending his digestion in a blind pouch.  This kind of a problem is fatal.  And it doesn’t take too long.  As distasteful and socially unacceptable as the bodily function that eliminates solid wastes is it’s pretty necessary.

But it’s only fatal if it’s allowed to continue.  We got  in there, found the problem, pulled the blind pouch out to the skin and opened it up, giving him a colostomy (which is distasteful but certainly better than the alternative and babies don’t really mind as much as adults do anyway).  I asked the surgeon about what would happen next, was he going to spend his whole life attached to a bag that he pooped into?  “No, we’ll give him a few weeks to let his intestines rest and heal a bit and then we’ll come back in and hook him back up, he’ll be fine.”

And just like that I had taken part in saving a life.  And I decided that maybe this job wasn’t so bad after all.

In the intervening years I’ve done some horribly sad cases.  I’ve been there, more than once, when we had to hold down a screaming child.  I’ve seen some sights that turned my stomach. And I’ve been there, more than once when some kid, when someone’s child, took their last breath.  And I’ve cried.

But with only one exception the last act of that child’s life was giving their organs to save another, and usually many more lives.  And in the case of the one exception we had at least ten, probably fifteen, people in there doing everything we could to prevent it’s being that child’s last breath.  We failed.  And we all cried.

I’ve also done life saving procedures.  I’ve helped put a new liver, someone else’s last ultimate gift, into a child literally on the brink of death.  I’ve helped fix more, many more, twisted intestines and I’ve taken out hundreds of appendices.  I’ve fixed broken bones and sewn up lacerations.  Most of what we do is routine and not exactly lifesaving but even the routine can be pretty amazing.  To the parent of the child who’s had ear infections for months on end who finally got ear tubes put in, what is a little nothing case to me, is a pretty life altering, if not lifesaving, procedure.

And that my friends is why I do what I do.

*I’m going to mention to you who have trouble with the idea of holding down a screaming child, that part of the medicinal cocktail that we give kids in the OR is a drug that has a retroactive amnesic effect, meaning that not only do they not remember anything after they get the drug, they don’t remember what happened a few minutes before they got the drugs.  In other words they don’t remember being held down.


For any of you who are interested, there’s a link to sign up for organ donation (at least in Utah) over on the side bar. I think you should check it out.

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristina P.
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 09:39:04

    It definitely takes all kinds! I could never do what you do, but you clearly love it, and that’s what makes you so good at it.

    It’s true, I have no problem holding down a screaming child (anymore) but I would have to shoot myself in the head if I had to sit there and talk to them about how they felt about it like you do. -Al

  2. Julie
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 09:51:59

    I would adore that job. And I have tremendous love for the hospital you work in. It has blessed our family in ways I can hardly express.

  3. julie
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 13:21:32

    sounds like there are days that are good and bad because of dealing with kids, but when ever I’ve been in the hospital with the kids. I’ve been appeciated of all the staff.

  4. Annette
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 14:02:47

    I think what you do is amazing. Thanks for putting the light on organ donation.

  5. Melanie Jacobson
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 19:23:43

    I’m a huge supporter of organ donation. Good on you for reminding people about it.

  6. Flipflopmama
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 06:30:44

    You are super cool.

  7. cheryl
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 09:15:35

    You are my hero.

  8. bythelbs
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 14:40:24

    You’d be cool without the job. It’s just bonus cool.

  9. melissabastow
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 15:59:18

    You do have a cool job. And you are cool. Two different things. See, I’m awesome. But get me into that cool job of yours and I’d probably be fainting and puking and all sorts of whatever as soon as the first incision was made. And therefore, your cool job and individual coolness combined outweigh any of my awesomeness. Basically I’m saying you’re cooler than me. As are the Veggietales guys.

  10. Sandra
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 20:28:44

    Well I say it makes you very cool. I’m currently going through nursing school, and not sure I even want to be in the profession. You certainly make it seem worth it.

  11. LisAway
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 07:30:11

    So my comment isn’t a lot like the others. I just wanted to say I cried when I read this. Okay, fine. Like everyone else, I’ll say you’re cool. Very.

    And organ donation is one of those things I want to scream out to the world. I was excited to get my drivers license as a teen, but I was almost more happy to stick that pink dot on the front to show I’m an organ donor.

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