Real Body Trumps Netter

I never shared how my last surgery rotation ended up not being too moot after all. Although the Physicians’ College exams meant we had no official theatre list, our consultant was called in to perform a neck exploration on my very last day on the rotation. Because I was falling in with a group younger than me, I was the only one not writing an exam that day. As a result, I was asked to assist even though the patient was not mine.

Was I nervous? Heck yes. The consultant is known for being very good but very strict. I had not been in an OR in over a year, and the anaesthetist noted that I looked scared to death. That’s because I was! I could barely remember how to scrub and gown, so I basically imitated them while they scrubbed in. 

Things only got better. The consultant (pretty short herself) asked the scrub nurse to bring me a step. This was the first time EVER that I could actually SEE what was going on in a surgery.

My biggest fear was passing out – not from the blood (duh) but because theatre masks make it very difficult for me to breath. But things progressed just fine. My second concern was that I was not wearing any visors, as I had not anticipated surgery when I left for hospital that morning. Fortunately no mucocutaneous splashes occurred.

For the first time, I could understand people’s fascination with surgery. This doctor was GOOD. She worked smoothly, efficiently, and calmly. A few times there would be a spurt of blood and I would get very worried (I watch way too much Grey’s), but she calmly applied the clamps.

neck1The best part was by the middle of the exploration, when she had exposed the common carotid, jugular vein and vagus nerve as they run together. She pointed it out and asked question. And then she said, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” and it was. Nothing, nothing compares to a live person in theatre. The cadavers we had in dissection pale in comparison (although I remain thankful for said cadavers).

In response to her statement, the registrar concurred, “It looks just like Netter” meaning our Netter Anatomy Atlas. I was inclined to agree, but the consultant said, “Netter looks just like this. Always remember that.”

So easy to forget that the pretty anatomy pictures are based on something more magnificent. It has been a while since I have been as in awe of the human body as that day. I am definitely more positive about surgery.


  1. Dave says:

    This is fantastic.

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