So, what's the worst thing that's happened to you on the wards?
A few of my non-medical friends were remarking recently how nothing can turn my stomach. No matter what we're wathing on TV, or what dead animal we see on the roads, I can just carry on eating, and acting like nothing has happened. I'd never given it much thought, but I was very squeamish as a youngster. Anything gross would have had me dry retching, regardless of where I was or who I was with.
But I guess medicine and medical school gives you an iron stomach.
I guess we are exposed to experiences that a lot of people would regard as abhorrent very early in our careers.
Within days of starting medical school, we were cutting cadavers open. Not many 19 year olds operating within the boundaries of the law have had that experience.
A particularly disturbing moment has stayed with me since the second year of medical school.
We were dissecting an abdomen, which was filled with fatty tissue. To get through fat, you basically have to just pull it out with a massive tweezer and a scalpel. I was busily dissecting through the huge adipose layer, with the enthusiasm of a first year medical student. One of my colleagues was hanging over my left shoulder to try and get a glance. He was quite a keen student, but he hadn't mustered up the courage to get stuck in yet.
So, I worked fervently, and was getting through to the prize that was the adominal peritoneum. As I got closer, I worked quicker. A small piece of fat flew from my tweezers. I watched in horror as it shot towards the guy who was standing behind me, with his mouth open.
I can remember the huge hunk of human fat entering his mouth like it happened in slow motion. I still remember him swallowing reflexly as it landed in his mouth.
And down it went. Jesus H Chist. I had just witnessed a colleague swallowing human fat. He turned white. Then yellow. Then green. Then he ran to the toilets to vomit violently for the next hour.
Poor guy. It didn't help his anatomy phobia. But, bizarrely, he is now a surgeon. So, he must have learned to use a scalpel at some stage.
There have been other moments that would make you grimmace. I remember being an intern on-call in a general medical ward in the UK. I was standing at the nurses' desk writing in a set of notes. Suddenly the back of my leg started to feel warm. I jolted and turned around to see a very elderly man standing behind me, urinating on my leg!!!!
I jumped out of the way and he finished off on the floor, undeterred. But that's life, and I have to say it didn't phase me too much. I just pottered off, and got some scrubs. I was back on-call 5 minutes later.
Paediatrics is full of things that would be gross if adults did them, but are considered cute when kids do them.
I was resuscitating a baby at a delivery a while back, and he came around very quickly. So, as I was leaning in palpating the arteries in his upper thighs, he decided to have a pee. Straight into my eyeball. I was so stunned, it took me a second or 2 to jump out of the way. Like I said, disgusting if an adult did it, but because this was a baby, everyone just went "Awwwwwwwww".
But I had to draw the line, when working in New Zealand, and classify a paediatric toilet incident as "gross". I was in A+E and saw a litte person who was constipated. I asked the nurses to put half a little dissolvable tablet into his bottom to shift the impacted poo. They weren't sure how to do this, as it wasn't a paeds emergency department. So, I said I'd show them.
I leaned in and put the tablet into his bottom. Within a millisecond his bowels decided that A) They were going to work and B) They were going to make up for lost time.
I was drenched in liquid poo. I mean DRENCHED. My whole face was covered in a stinking layer. I wiped my eyes, to see this baby laughing like crazy at his handywork.
I guess you have to laugh. And you're pretty much guaranteed to develop an iron stomach after those experiences.
I can't wait until I'm old so I can exact my revenge. Bring it on!!!!