Monday, July 4, 2011

If I wanted to be a doctor, I would have gone to Medical School

Just ask my children. They'll tell you the countless times I said that in response to minor, or sometimes major, medical problems. "I have a splinter." OK, that I could handle with tweezers or a sharp sewing needle that I sterilized by holding a match to the sharp end. Of course, that required putting the eye of the needle in a piece of cork so that my fingers wouldn't get burned. And then, washing the splinter's previous home with soap, bactine, alcohol, etc. As my children grew older, splinters became almost routine but, each time, I had to steady myself against fainting.

My father knew me very well. He would not let me take biology (you're too squeamish and the disections will probably upset you and your stomach) or chemistry (you're very sensitive to smells and you could easily wind up in the ER). I took physics, the one science that would not offend my sensitivities and delicate nature. And, indeed, I liked physics - the only science that is logical.

Going back to my maternal doctoring. I knew to put ice on mosquito bites, followed by benedril; I knew to wash scrapes and abrasions and cuts with hot soapy water to prevent infections. But when I was confronted with a gaping dime-sized hole in the skin under the chin of one of my children and I said, "let's go to the ER," I heard, "No, Mom. You have to fix it." So, I garnered my strength and pulled the skin together with a butterfly bandage. Don't know how I did that, but it was correct, and there is no scar. I guess it's true that mothers get adrenalin surges when their children are in trouble.

So this week, Edgar underwent Mohs surgery for a melanoma in situ on his nose. The surgeon removed a large-sized tumor. The cancer is gone. And then he did reconstructive surgery that involved a skin flap, taken from his forehead, twisted, and sewed to his nose so that the outside skin from the forehead remains on the outside of the nose. The procedure took 12 hours and we were both worn out when it was over. But then, the medical staff said that I would have to change the dressing every day for a week until the stitches were removed. Remember, these people all went to school for advanced training and they acted as if anyone could perform the dressing change.

Here come the instructions - use sterilized scissors: how do I do that? Swish them in alchol. Cover all the blue stitches with vaseline, which was supplied; with the long Q-tips, which were supplied; cover everything with Telfa, which was supplied. Then came the tricky part. I had to put a pressure bandage from the tip of the nose up to the forehead. "A what?" Just cut the Telfa and apply it with pressure and tape it on with pressure.

I asked for a tenplate for the pressure bandage which one of the nurses made for me. There were plenty of supplies, and after the first time, with help and support from my children, I gained confidence. Yesterday, I changed the bandage with a supportive onlooker and today I did it by myself.

I have to repeat. If I wanted to be a doctor, I would have gone to medical school. I still don't want to be a doctor. I don't want to be a nurse. And my greatest preference would be never to need one.

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