5 Things You Didn't Know Surgeons Do With Your Body
If you think about it, surgery is kind of insane. "Here, stranger," you say, "these other strangers told me you're pretty smart, so go ahead and cut me open with all the knives you have. I'll go to sleep while you do it. And can you make sure not even my family can monitor it? Great. Here's all the money I will ever make!" But there's a good reason we don't tell you everything that goes on in that operating room. No, it's not because we're irresponsible or cruel or dangerous, but because it would make us surgeons look really, really weird. Parties are awkward enough already with the whole "can you take a look at this growth?" thing.
Surgery Can Be Way More Primitive Than You Think
If you're shot in the chest and your heart stops beating, we're going to crack your chest open and start poking around. It's seriously that simple -- We'll say, "Well, he's dead in seconds, so no point in being delicate," and then rip those ribs open with a claw-hammer if we have to. We know that either your heart-sack is full of blood, or your heart has a hole in it. If it's the heart-sack, we'll gash it open with a pair of scissors. If it's a hole, we'll plug it with our finger, and then run alongside you to the operating room. Or just staple it back together.
Before you ask, yes.
Also, you probably think of leeches as an old-timey medical anomaly. But after some plastic surgeries, reconstructed areas of the body get incompetent veins. The function of veins is to bring blood back to the heart, so if they're not working, the arteries bring blood away from the heart and to the desired location, then the veins say fuck it and toss it wherever, like some lazy teenager home from school. The arteries don't really have an "off" option, so blood piles up in that one spot, until the pressure of it kills all the cells it's trying to bring nutrients and oxygen to. One way to alleviate this is bloodletting, and the best way we have to do that is to stick a handy medical-grade leech onto you.
"We were gonna operate with lasers, but your HMO would only cover blood-sucking bog worms."
And we need those leeches; during one particularly nasty storm, the leech delivery boys called in sick with "terroritis," so one of our interns drove their own car out to the leech farm and packed it full of vampire-slugs. Someone's life was depending on that man turning his hybrid into a blood wagon, so he stepped up to the plate and took several pounds of leeches for the team.
You Might Wake Up During Surgery, but Don't Worry -- We Can Control Your Memory
Anesthetics have come a long way. A couple hundred years ago, we were getting people too hammered to care when we cut parts of them off, but these days, we can actually erase your goddamn memory like the Men in Black. One time in the ER, we had a guy with a bullet hole in his chest who lost vitals (that's a polite way to say "died") while we were wheeling him to the operating room. We immediately went full Mortal Kombat, ripping his chest open and doing our thoracotomy thing on his heart -- and it worked! We brought him back to life!
Well, technically undeath, but we avoid calling it that for insurance reasons.
Unfortunately, we brought him a little too back to life, and he ended up opening his eyes right there. When he saw a resident elbow-deep in his organs, he gave us the exact look you picture somebody having when they wake up to find a stranger's hands inside their chest. We did our best to reassure the dude he was gonna be fine, but I'm not sure how convincing we were, because he never got a chance to tell us. Not because he died -- he ended up fine. He never told us because we gave him a shot of versed and propofol, and he never knew any of it happened.
And it's not that uncommon. A lot of surgeries need the patient awake and following orders during the procedure, but we still don't want them to remember any of it because ... well, would you want to remember it?
We Play With Your Dick and Never Even Tell You
"Grab it like you mean it."
Those are the words I've used to instruct medical students on how best to handle a patient's wang. If you wonder what the patient thought of this, well, don't worry -- he was asleep.
"After surgery, you may experience soreness, nausea, and/or a desire to cuddle."
We're not giving you 100 cc's of medical molestation for nothin' -- it's just that making sure your bladder is empty is a vital part of most surgeries, since we don't want you pissing all over your own innards, and it's easier to avoid popping your bladder with a scalpel if it's deflated. We generally stick a foley catheter right in where stuff's supposed to come out, and once we're done removing whatever piece of you we deemed necessary, we pull it back out, and you never know the difference.
We simply don't have the time to tell you about it. On a normal day we start our "rounds" (checking in on our patients) at 4:30 a.m., and then have a meeting to discuss our rounds at 7:30 a.m. If we have 60 patients (a conservative estimate), that gives us three minutes per patient, assuming we have the ability to teleport from room to room -- but only like 5 percent of surgeons were lucky enough to be born with the necessary x-gene to pull that trick off. So anything that's going to unnecessarily protract a conversation (like, say, mentioning what's been up your dickhole -- generally an important topic to you) is going to get in the way of more important matters.
Such as the aforementioned swapping of weird wiener stories with the other surgeons.
You know, truly dire stuff like ...
Your Farts -- Your Monumental, Medically Relevant Farts
If we need to cut open your abdomen, more often than not, the trauma will cause your digestive system to basically go to sleep. We call this an ileus, and while it's usually harmless, it also means that any food that gets shoved down your gullet is going to come right back out that same way, possibly all over those brand new stitches lining your stomach. The problem is that no one really knows how long it's going to take before your intestines "wake back up" -- I've seen it take as little as 12 hours and as long as a week -- and the best way to find out is to ask the patient if they've started farting again.
Hey, now that you mentioned it, we've seen something like this before.
After we hear that you've farted, we'll often let out a celebratory cheer, because remember: surgeons are super, super weird folks.
If you can't enjoy the post-op sneeze-fart-whoops combo, then maybe medicine isn't the career for you.
But it's not only farts that are important -- it's pretty much anything your lower half does. If you've peed, we need to know how much. That's why the orderlies record it. Same with poop, but that can be a little harder. Let's say you have diarrhea, and the nurse records "300" in the computer. What's that mean? 300 milliliters of poop? They crapped their brains out 300 times on the toilet? The shit they took was so bulky it could've been cast in the movie 300? We can't know. And that's why we have to ask. About your poop.
Please still talk to us at parties.
You Can Have the Latest Technology or Experience -- but Not Both
At my hospital, we've had the da Vinci robot for a few years now, and if you have $2 million to blow on a toy, consider snagging one. If you don't know already, the da Vinci is the magic life-saving machine from Prometheus, only way more rad.
If the alien makes it out of her chest, I'll blast it with lasers.
It's like virtual reality: you stick your whole head in the console, then first-person-shooter your way through someone's innards. It even blasts your voice through the operating room -- I've heard one surgeon get carried away and shout, "I'm Conan the fucking Barbarian!" That likely does little to calm the fears of passing patients, wondering what kind of swordplay the O.R. has in store for them.
At least it's not a euphemism for more dick-manhandling.
But it's basically emergent technology. That means people have been using it for a few years at the most. And a key part of determining a procedure's success is experience. With traditional "keyhole" surgeries, you can have decades of practice, but with this robot, you can have one decade, and that's only if you've been using it since the very beginning. So while cutting-edge medical technology is great for progressing the species, it's important to remember that "new" isn't "best" in every situation. So the next time you're discussing your options with a doctor, instead of asking what the newest, most advanced options are, ask them how they'd like to get this done.
And if the answer is "with a broadsword, while wearing a loincloth," breathe a sigh of relief. Dr. Barbarian is a motherfucking artist.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Things I Learned Sneaking Over the U.S.-Mexico Border and 7 Things I Learned as an Accomplice to Mass Murder. Do you have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
It's a tough gig for surgeons, sure, but it turns out it's an even tougher gig for animal celebrities.
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