Wednesday, June 27, 2007
My last post seems to have sunk without a ripple, so I'm letting my mind coast for a day or two. Letting neurons fire randomly and record the blips. Downhill sledding. Clutch in, no effort. Empty the mind, see what rises...Here's a couple of memories that popped up, for no particular reason that I can palpate, using the least amount of effort possible:
Training in San Francisco meant seeing a broad swath of humanity. I once operated on an ancient Chinese woman who spoke no English, and who'd been subjected in her distant youth to the practice of foot-binding. Entirely unrelated to the problem that led to my surgery, it was nevertheless memorable enough that the image is fresh in my mind, sticking amongst the otherwise decaying RNA. Her feet were a lot like this:
It hurts to think about it. Here's how the Xray would, no doubt, have looked:
The mind now ping-pongs to the arrival of another Chinese person, this one a male, looking to be at least a hundred years old, and not planning to get any older. He'd been ministered to for a few days by traditional healers of some sort, including having the stigmata of "cupping." What I remember most was the rigidity of his abdomen: "board-like abdomen" is a classic sign of severe peritonitis, the muscles involuntarily tightening up in a protective response. I've seen a few, but this was the only one ever that was truly like a plank. With enough of them, you could have walked across the Golden Gate without a bridge. I was working in the ER at the time, and as I sent him to the floor, I wrote the presumptive diagnosis on the ER sheet: "Perforated viscus; rule out death..."
Boink. Another cerebral pinball hits a bumper. When Chief Resident, I cared for a man locally described as "The King of the Gypsies." Whatever he was, he came with an extensive and colorful entourage who literally camped outside the ICU for the several days he was there. Many families of other patients were understandably disturbed; still, it was a unique and in many ways irresistibly enjoyable group. They cooked, they played music, they set up little tents, all inside the hospital. For some reason, security let them stay (maybe the King had an army.) The women were beautiful, the men a little scary; but they attended to my every word as I updated them daily on the man's progress. He made it. And when they left late one night, they took several chairs and a TV with them.
And speaking of TV, I was making rounds as a horny intern during the baseball playoffs. Attending more to the bandages of my patient than the televised proceedings, I slowly became aware of a female voice singing the National Anthem. Clear and crystalline, straight up like a perfect martini, this was the purest version ever; the Platonic ideal. No quavering, no self-centered arrangement. The real deal. Stunning. I looked up to see a dark-haired beauty (I married a dark-haired beauty not long after), clad in short shorts and a LA Dodgers jacket. "Who the fuck is that?" I uttered (not easy to do, with the lower jaw non-participatory), zoned far away from the work at hand. And it was then that I became a life-long fan of Linda Ronstadt.