Thursday, May 22, 2008
When I saw my brother-in-law dazedly slugging toward the house, blood streaming down his face in impressive rivulets, I sprang into action. Well, okay, not so much me as his wife, and my wife, and another of their sisters. But I did, eventually. Maybe not "sprang," exactly, but went over to have a look. And determined that on this Sunday morning, on an island, he'd need a few sutures. No problem. We had the whole cast of characters on hand.
It helps, on a Sunday on an island, to have the keys to the clinic. If the one holding the keys is the head nurse and clinic manager, sister-in-law to the subject, and weekend host, so much the better. What good is a surgeon, after all, with nothing to put in his hands?
So up we loaded D., pressuring appropriately the wound (rendered, it turns out, by a branch let loose by D. as he... well, I won't embarrass him...) and drove to the clinic. J. (not really a giveaway since the entire family of nine kids and two parents and, at one time, dog, thus initiate the spelling of their names) let us in and quickly gathered the needed utensils in a treatment room. With D's wife looking on admiringly, and ably assisted by J, I prepped the skin, infiltrated a little local (after calling for the stuff I'd need, all knowledgeable-like) and whipped in a few sutures, flashing my best instrument-tying technique in a blur of man and machine melding. We cleaned the place up and were out of there, the whole concerto from entry to exit having taken only fifteen minutes. Compare, if you will, to any day in any ER in any location. Helps to have friends in high places, especially on an island.
The image that remains in my memory is that of D's wife watching. D is a contractor and a builder and I've seen his work many times. Impressive stuff. And whereas throwing in a few scalp sutures isn't the acme of my work, it was the only way she could ever have seen me do what I do, and I liked that. Flipping the tip of the needle holder through a nicely proportioned loop of nylon; laying the sutures down in perfect intervals, bringing the skin together exactly, not too snug under a surgeon's knot, back flipping the next loop. Things I've done since I was a med student (less well, then), and hardly the equivalent of building a multi-million-dollar-home; but it was nice to let them, for a moment, into a corner of my world and how I live in it. Makes it real, after years of being the guy who was too busy to show up.