Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Womb Is Where the Heart Is

My first surgery was a success!
And the patient was fine, also.

Don't worry--by "my" surgery I didn't actually mean that I *did* the surgery, or anything close to it. All I did was hold some retractors at this angle, some scissors at that angle, and my head and torso at a completely different angle, while the head surgeon (aka the attending) instructed my new boss (aka the chief resident) how to do all the cutting and cautery and suturing and such (aka the actual surgery).

You see, the success had nothing to do with what I *did* do; it had everything to do with what I *didn't* do: I didn't faint, vomit, sneeze into the sterile field, accidentally scratch my nose and have to leave to rescrub, have a bathroom accident, get stuck with a needle, stick anyone with a needle, fall asleep, trip over myself and fall onto the patient, offend the scrub nurses, insult the surgeon, or commit any of the other potentially disastrous yet inevitably common flubs that I've heard about others making in my position as a surgical newbie. Score one for me!

To be honest, I was actually feeling a bit out of sorts at first, as I stood waiting in one corner of the cramped little room while everyone else prepped the instruments and patient. Watching the anesthesiologist soothe our nervous patient with the warm lullaby of a morphine drip, listening to the James Taylor crooning on the OR radio, I felt as though maybe he was working his magic on my nerves as well...maybe a little *too* well, as my head started to float up to the ceiling and my knees got a wee bit wobbly. Luckily, my body decided to cooperate with the situation once I got called into the thick of things, and I retained and maintained a firm grip on the right side of gravity throughout the rest of the procedure.

The operation, a vaginal hysterectomy with oophorectomy, was a bit of a change from the happy prenatal visits I've been doing the last two weeks at the Women's Center. There was no baby in this uterus--just a collection of hardened fibroids creating a whole lotta bleeding and pain for this poor woman with a life history not many would trade her for. On one hand, I was excited about the surgery, it being my first and all, but part of me felt very sad at the thought of the castration (we had to take her ovaries also) that was about to take place. When it came time to remove the uterus, I braced myself for the gore and grossness. But it never came. All that emerged from/as our patient's womb was a small, red, heart-shaped object. It was almost adorable. Turns out our patient had a bicornuate uterus, meaning that as an early embryo way back in her own mother's womb, she didn't complete the fusion of her pre-uterine tubes into one uterus. As a result, she has one cervix attached to a two-humped uterus, and it really did resemble the shape of a traditionally drawn heart .

What to make of the blatant symbolism? Here are a few thoughts on this utero-cardiac connection:
1. Bearing children seems to be a gift of the heart, as ordinary women in love become mothers who discover a love for their children that is deeper and more powerful than anything they have ever felt.
2. Functionally, the uterus is like a second heart--the first one gives us life, and the second gives life to our children.
3. It's interesting that her "heart" was bleeding, causing her so much pain. The attending said that she's had a series of unfortunate tragedies in her life, all of which have no doubt caused her emotional heart much pain. Maybe, in removing her bleeding, wounded heart, we have helped heal a part of her past and given her hope for a brighter future....

Ok, enough mushy theorizing. It's 10pm, way past my bedtime already. I've become an early bird. Time to go catch some worms. Ugh.


Post a Comment

<< Home