Monday, November 05, 2007
Walk of Life
[It's another testament to the universality of rock and roll that the lyrics of the title-referenced song make mention of a "song about a knife." And may I add that when presenting my biology honors thesis in college, the subject of which was intra-allelic recombination in the Ruby Eye locus of D. Melanogaster, the results of my inquiry into which were sorta surprising, I made another musical reference. "The fact," I said, "that Ray Charles, when he sang 'They say, Ruby you're like a dream, not always what you seem,' predicted the very results I am about to reveal says much not only about Mr. Charles in particular but about popular music in general." So we have a pattern here. And I'll just assume that everyone recognizes the picture.]
During the planning stages of the surgery center in the creation of which I was a proud participant, it came to be revealed that we'd be having the patients walk into the OR under their own power. No gurneys, no wheelchairs. You walk, we'll carry the IV bag (or wait till you're in there to start it.) Being well into my career by that time, and having worked in a few previous surgery centers -- not to mention oodles of ORs of the olden ouvre -- I was surprised. Weirded out, even. Likewise, I figured, our prospective patients. On several levels, I was wrong. It is, after all, ambulatory surgery.
Outpatient surgery is all about the "out." To wake up quickly, and to be clear-headed when doing so, the less extraneous drugs the better. Sedation of the pre-op variety can add to time in the recovery room. If you're marching, you're not medicated. There's more to it, though. Walking to the OR sends a homey message: it's like coming into someone's house. Hi there, welcome. I'm Cindy, and this is Jane. It's unthreatening; there's some retention of control, of doing instead of being done to. And best of all, it gives those veins in the legs a final squeeze at the best time: right before lying motionless for a while and going all thrombogenic.
In medicine, involving, as it does, humans, nothing is 100%. The stroll is not for everyone. Some people, medically or emotionally, need that sedation going in. And to make it a tolerable trek, you need to attend to certain potential gaps in coverage. Still, I rapidly came around to liking everything about walking to the room. And with a nice robe, a few smiles on arrival, and a quick and comfortable exit, it's my perception that the patients did, too. I can't count how many times I heard from patients on their post-op visit, within a couple of words of verbatim, "I never thought I'd say this about having surgery, but that was a wonderful experience." A great facility and a superb staff had, of course, much to do with it (as did receiving a perfect operation!) But the walk, I think, played a part. And the rose petals we strewed along the path.