Singing through surgery
Heidi wheeled me into the surgical suite just before noon yesterday. We’d never met before. But whoever goes for the heated blankets when there’s a chilly patient on a gurney is, in my estimation, the cat’s pajamas. That was Heidi.
As the surgical prep for my thumb repair got underway, I asked her who gets to choose the music that comes through the speakers. “Well, we kinda just agree on it. Your surgeon doesn’t like country western, so today it’s classic rock.” Once the blood pressure cuff was on, the IV flowing, and the tent was in place to block my view of the operation, the doc rolled up his stool and readied his scalpel.
Savage Garden, the Australian pop duo, was just coming on in that operating room with one of their popular singles. The surgeon started singing along: I wanna stand with you on a mountain. I’m flat on my back and not close to a mountain, but I thought to myself, “Sure. Maybe we will stand together on a mountain someday. But right now, just make this surgery a success so that I can self-button my shirts again, get my hand to wrap around my bike hand grip, and maybe even unscrew a bottle cap again.”
I wanna bathe with you in the sea, he sang, pouring ice cold water over my hand and asking if I could feel it through the local anesthetic. Did he coordinate that on purpose? I’ll be your hope, he continued, singing along with the album. I thought to myself, “Never mind being my hope. Just be focused. When you cut the tendon, and loosen the joint capsule; when you scrape out the scar tissue, and remove the hardware in there, just do it well.” My surgeon kept singing. I’ll be your love. “Gosh, he’s gotta know I’m married. Right? Well, regardless, he seems like a neat guy who must have all kinds of friends in his life who love him.”
This obviously wasn’t the first time he heard this song. He kept singing happily along. I’ll be everything that you need. “Well, I’m just counting on your training and residency and experience to be everything that YOU need. And, by the way,” I almost blurted out, “How many more minutes before you loosen that darn tourniquet on my forearm?”
I can’t think of many exacting skills I might be able to perform where I could manage to sing at the same time. Heck, I can barely coordinate singing with bending over to tie my shoes. What I decided in the end was that this surgeon not only loves his work; he’s also gifted and confident enough to be able to break into the joy of song. There’s a takeaway there … one I think I have something to learn from.