Updated for a WI Writers' Association reading today.
In the middle of a quiet summer afternoon in the Operating Room, we received a call.
A patient, a child, was en route to us from the Emergency Room.
Immediately we heard voices and clanging equipment in our outer hall as the patient arrived.
Three years old, had been hit by a car.
Intubated, his breathing assisted by an anesthesiologist, he was transferred to the OR table as we rapidly got everything ready. Nurses and surgical techs worked together to scrub his torso with soap, open and set up instruments, and help surgeons and assistants into sterile gowns. Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of commotion.
The surgeon was known for being particular about using specific instruments, and as he made the incision he yelled that he didn’t have his “special” goddamn suction tube.
Our head nurse yelled back that he wasn’t much of a goddamn surgeon if he couldn’t manage this emergency without his special goddamn suction tube. I had never heard her raise her voice to a surgeon, or to anyone, before. The surgeon stopped yelling.
It soon became apparent that the procedure was futile. The room quieted, extra people left and eventually the surgery concluded with the abdomen being quickly sutured closed and the anesthesia withdrawn.
As the child lay dead on the table, we removed IV lines, tenderly washed blood and debris from his body, placed him in a clean gown and covered him to his chin with a soft blanket.
He was so tiny. No one spoke. Tears were shed. Some of us had three-year olds at home. I did.
I remember going home late that afternoon, wanting to talk about what had happened, but not finding words that could convey the story.
That was a day in the OR, and in the OR, there was at least a story a day.