jeudi 29 mars 2012

The one who taught french with half a stomach less.

First clinical year. Summer. Visceral surgery rotation. Understaffed.

I walk in the bedroom of one of my new incoming patients of the day.
A lady who had walked into the hospital by herself. Not so recurrent in visceral surgery, it needs to be said.
A woman undoubtedly overweighted and really nice. I am holding her file and it says that all the requirements needed for a bariatric surgery are completed. This sweet lady is here to let half of her stomach be amputated. The "last call for obesity" i've heard.

I sit down, i have all the time i need.
The arfternoons when we weren't supposed to be in the operating room, we could organise our days as we wanted. We could manage the patients of the district on our little level
Incoming patients, calves, abdominal scars.
No superior to solicit us permanently or to show us a whole bunch of CT scans with unidentified (not-so-)swallowed objects within.
No time running, no emergencies. Only us : young white jackets, nurses and parameds.

"- Hello. I am a medstudent, i am here to chat a little bit.
- Yes, i know. I know you."

Caught in the middle of the monologue i was about to output, productivity over and over, i try an uneasy eye over my file.
The patient has a polite, prepossessing smile. Maybe a little bit disappointed.
As far as i am concerned, i don't know her.
I try again.

"- Yes.. This is the game of the University Hospitals. Students everywhere, plus the residents, plus..."
She stops me nicely. She shakes her hand in the air as if i was a little girl who, one day, would stop stealing candies.
"- No, no. I know you. Pneumology, at the beginning of the year. You took care of me."

I frown. Pneumo. Ten months earlier. Week-care hospital. I mostly remember my cancerous patients. And surely this lady doesn't have any general alteration at all. She doesn't smoke. She tried everything to lose weight. Really, everything. She is  discrete. She..... Has sleep apnea.
I suddendly remember.

I think I have been nice, the first time, because she puts my awkward face aside and waits. She is indulgent.
Her look blames me to think of people as numbers, i feel it, i know it. But she doesn't say anything, she stays polite and smiling.
"- We were saying ?
-  Yes, so, i am going to ask you a few questions...
- Yes, like the last time."

She is testing me, i know it.
I smile. She is a clever one.
She smiles, again.
I continue with something i would try not to do too quickly in the future. Quickly gathering the antecedents. Personal ones.

"- Your job ?" "French teacher." "Do you smoke ?" "No." "Already smoked ?" "Never smoked." "Are you married ?" "No." "Ménopausal ?" "No." "Kids ?" "No." "Pregnancies ?" "Yes."
She breaks into tears.

Well done. Great. Congrats, Polly. Less than ten minutes, rhino-nasal catarrh and really bad score.
Don't you want to ask her for how long she has been obese and her life has been ruined by it ?

I stayed in this sunny bedroom with my little patient. I amended myself, i think so, and we talked.
I had plenty of time, she still had her stomach, everything was fine.

I got out of the hospital that evening with the feeling that one day, i wouldn't be going to be the"student number thirty six" anymore. Some fleeting white shadow. That serial blunderer here to remind the older ones how much they have achieved or are supposed to.
No. One day, i would have a name. As i already apparently had a face which had not been wiped off by my white coat.
One day, i would have to assume every little blade that would come out of my mouth right in the face of the patients I will be responsible for.
Yet, I had the luck to be able to train myself and count for nothing, to try things. But I also had to remember that i still counted for some people, as i already had the power to hurt them for real.
At that time, i had two years to learn how to cope with it, and so i had to get to work as soon as possible.

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