I remember this.
I was standing in the operating room. It was the first time during my surgery clerkship I had scrubbed into a surgery. I stepped to the table on the patient’s left side, his face hidden behind blue drapes. His abdomen was open and exposed, orange with iodine. I placed my gloves carefully on the blue sterile field. Warm, nervous breath insulated the skin beneath my mask.
The surgeon swept into the room, hands and arms still dripping. His work is legendary. Specializing in melanoma, his work targets the most aggressive of skin cancers. His ground-breaking injectable virus is killing melanoma cells, and his research has shifted perspectives in oncologic therapy.
He approached the operating table and they raised it to meet his towering height. I climbed onto a step beside him. Nurses in blue gowns and masks whirred in preparation around us, bustling with sterile instruments hot from the oven. I could hear the anesthesiologist adjusting the tubing flowing from the patient’s mouth.
“Are you ready?”, he asked, glancing at me from behind his lenses. He knew it was my first case on the service.
Until that moment, medicine had always pulled me. I figured it was my father having life stripped away from him as his brain cells shriveled with ischemia. Or possibly it was my mother’s bruises, constantly coating her body like an ever-changing mood ring. Maybe it was the lack of stable family structure during my childhood years, a love and caring that I found was needed by the patients at the hospital.
But as I stood above the table, watching fingers twisting silk sutures and seeing the separation of the pearly fascial layers, I remembered. My body remembered. I had a visceral reaction to it, with tears and a twisting in my stomach, remembering something I have never known.