Friday, 16 March 2018
'So, how are you with blood?' they asked...
I am bundled up in navy scrubs and an attractive hair cap. An operating team of 9 or 10 people move around the theatre, getting things ready. I have not been allowed to bring in my art kit bag, so the patch pockets of my scrubs are full of pencils. I have a mask over my nose and mouth which keeps fogging up my glasses and I am standing in a corner, trying to be less in the way, wrestling with my concertina and clips. One clip pings across the floor. I apologise, then scurry and bend to pick It up from under something which is beeping. My patch pockets empty pencils onto the floor with a clatter. It is all a bit more tricky than I had realised.
We are here to observe an afternoon of hand operations at Fremantle Hospital. I am sketching and the researcher from UWA is making notes and asking questions of the team when she can. As usual, we are interested in how people feel about their jobs, what they enjoy most, what gets them stressed.
I am surprised at the number of people in the team (I once had foot surgery, which I sketched by the way, but I could swear there were only 3 people in theatre). The surgeon has a relaxed manner which helps me feels less intrusive being there, but things suddenly get super-tricky when I am asked to put an x-ray tabard over my scrubs. It weighs a ton (lead??) but, most importantly, there are no pockets. I transfer my favourite three pencils into my mouth and try not to dribble.
The experience is fascinating, just watching the process. There are 3 short operations, one after the other. I scribble like crazy and catch what I can. Luckily, being hand surgery, I can't see the nitty-gritty, just the cluster of experts around the outstretched arm. I have no idea how I will react to the incision and the blood, so I wait until near the end of the afternoon before I inch close enough to get a decent view. I don't faint, thank goodness. How horribly embarrassing that would be.
When we are done, we get a few minutes to chat to the chief surgeon. He gives thoughtful answers. It's hard, he says, when you are operating and are unsure of what to do for the best. You're in charge and the team look to you to be the one who knows what your doing, but it takes courage to admit when you need to stop and take time out to think, or ask advice from a colleague.
When asked to rate his job, on a scale of 1 – 10, he says it depends: 'Some days it’s definitely a 10, others a 3. Some days you really help people, but on others it doesn't work out. When I'm stressed,' he says, 'I head for the biscuit bin'. He taps his belly. 'Can you tell?'