Today I had the opportunity to enjoy some rarely-experienced phenomena. I got to watch a giant boil be lanced, and I got to put a surgeon in his rightful place (somewhere under my shoe).
We have a patient who has been complaining of a lump in his hip where he got an injection (not by me) a few months ago as part of his cancer treatment. Finally this week, things came to a head, literally, and we brought him in to the clinic to assess it. I had the first look, and, really, it looked like the biggest zit you have ever seen. I could see why this poor guy had been calling me every other day for a week.
I told the doc about it and she, a radiation oncologist, who has not had to get her hands dirty in years, told me to call surgery and have them come and drain it. I have issues with surgeons at the best of times. That is, I have an inferiority complex, but just enough ego for my psychological deficiency to piss me off, and surgeons think they are God. I call it Surgeon Syndrome (is it the ego that attracts them to the profession, or the profession that nurtures the ego?). So to start off, I had an attitude.
So I paged surgery, and a resident called me back. Yes, a resident. A baby surgeon. It went like this:
Me: We have a patient with an abscess on his hip from an injection, we need you to come and drain it.
BS (audibly rolling his eyes): Why don’t you call ortho?
Me (attitude swelling): Why would I call ortho?
BS: You said it’s on his hip.
Me: It’s subcutaneous, on his butt.
BS: Doesn’t your resident know how to handle a scalpel?
Me (restrained): I don’t have a resident, I work with a radiation oncologist, and this thing looks like it’s going to blow. Will you at least come and assess it?
BS: How big is it?
Me: Maybe not quite as big as my fist.
BS (pausing, thoughtfully): Fine, I will be there.
So Baby Surgeon, a small (frequently another interesting component of Surgeon Syndrome), swarthy man who introduced himself as Nelson, of all names, came and had a look at it, and agreed that it needed to be drained and that he was the one for the job. We gathered up the supplies (that only I could find, because he works in the hospital, not the cancer clinic and because I have recently, conveniently, been trained in surgical nursing), I opened things and handed him things and generally assisted in a professional and efficient way. He numbed the area with xylocaine and made a tiny incision, and buckets of goo started pouring out. I will have mercy on the faint of heart and not describe exactly how cool it all was in detail, but suffice it to say that there was a good half-cup of crud. And it didn’t just drain, it squirted. It was under pressure. I mean, it got some air. It was gross. It took a good half hour to milk it all out.
So he finished, and packed the cavity, and we sent the patient on his way, and the Baby Surgeon turns to me and says, “I’m really sorry I was such an ass earlier. We get calls constantly from the ward to pop blisters and lance boils. It’s such a waste of time. Those docs are capable. When you said it was the size of your fist, I figured I’d better come. This was worth a page.” I do a little internal dance. Ha! A surgeon apologizing for being a jerk! It’s too good to be true! It’ll never happen again in my lifetime.
He even apologized to my doc. I’m flying high on the wings of my monumental victory. Despite his rudeness, I did a good job, I restrained myself and acted in a professional manner, and, as a final coup de grace, I got an apology. There’s nothing like taking an undeservedly arrogant pinhead down a notch or two. Even if an opportunity like today’s never comes up again, I will always remember Nelson fondly.
I’m covering the surgical oncology clinic on Monday… when the surgeon throws a temper tantrum, and they will, I can insulate myself from the wrath by remembering Nelson saying, “I’m sorry I was such an ass…” and take heart in the fact that there is at least one surgeon in the world who may not be an arrogant egomaniac right down to the DNA. It’s comforting.