Thursday, May 22, 2008

Family Guy

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.


Hinata said...

I really like the way you write. It makes me "feel".

Sid Schwab said...

And I really like the way you comment.

GDad said...

Doctor Schwab,

You've moved beyond vocation to avocation. Nifty. Hope the rest of the vacation wasn't as bloody.

Anonymous said...

Does Family Guy have any relationship to Faint Praise? *grin*

Anonymous said...

A pinch of ouch at the end and a gladness that you're now where you can step in like that and help on the spot.

And with stitching like that, meantime, if you're not knitting, you should be. Cashmere for those hands to work with.

Jacob said...

It's good to feel useful, huh?

Bongi said...

beautifully written. we work in a sacred place few people see. sometimes when we allow a mother into theater to keep the child calm during the induction, as soon as he's asleep she is whisked away as if she doesn't belong. i often wish some of my people could see me in action but i know it can't be. although scalp sutures are small in comparison to the stuff we sometimes pull off in theater, the acknowledgement from family is nice.

rlbates said...

As always, nicely written.

SeaSpray said...

I enjoyed the post.

It's nice that you were able to help and they got to see you in action. That's a family story that will be remembered. :)

What's it like being the guy who is too busy to show up?

Obviously, you had to do what you had to do and there was probably disappointment at times both ways, but did you ever feel guilt even though you knew what had to be priority or would that just be wasted energy because it was what it was?