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Beyond the Magic Scapel
Chapter Two


By Maher Abbas, M.D.


Intern, Surgery

was what my name badge had written on it. I held it up and looked at it from different angles and distances. I was very proud of myself. Yesterday, I was just another medical student. Today, I was a doctor. A full-fledged M.D. God, I never thought I would get here. Here I was. MICK BALDI, M.D. I held the badge in my hand and squeezed it hard. As far as I was concerned, no one was going to take it away from me. I had earned every bit of it. I felt great. Finally, I was going to get some respect. I walked down the hallway in search of my new team.

"Good morning. Can you please tell me where I can find Professor Willie Harshberg?" I asked the nurse supervisor sitting at the desk.

"He's in operating room seven. Down the hallway and to the right."

"Thank you."

"Where do you think you're going, young man?" she asked me as I started heading down the hallway.

"To room seven. Didn't you say that it was down this hallway and to the right?"

"Yes, I did. But I didn't say that you could go there."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Don't you understand English? You can't go there, yet. Who are you?"

"I'm Doctor Mick Baldi. Surgery service," I replied as I tried to pin my name badge to my jacket.

"Look here, Mick Baldi. You have to fill out my paper work before you go into any of my operating rooms. For how long are you with us?"

"The whole year."

"Listen to me and listen carefully. This is the first and last time that I'll tell you my rules. Rule one: never let me catch you in street clothes beyond this line," she said as she pointed to a yellow line drawn across the hallway. "Likewise, never let me catch you in surgical scrubs on the street. Rule two: always do as my scrub nurses tell you. Never piss off any of my staff, or else you'll have a long and painful year. Rule three: never leave a patient on the operating room table without you being there. Rule four: if you have a complaint, fill out a complaint form."

She briefly paused and opened one of the drawers. She pulled out a few forms and a key.

" The locker room is back this way. Here's a key to one of the lockers. Take these forms with you. Make sure that you return them to me before you go into the O.R. Do you have any questions?"

"I'm sure that I'll think of some later."

"Good then. I wish you a good year with Professor Harshberg," she finished saying with a nasty smile on her face.

I walked to the locker room with mixed feelings. I changed my clothes and put on surgical scrubs. I left my name badge on the upper shelf of my locker. I stopped by the restroom and tried to pee. I always got the urge to pee when I was nervous. I walked back to the nurse supervisor and returned her filled out forms. I headed down the hallway in search of operating room number seven. I was eager to meet Professor Harshberg.

Room seven wasn't far. I grabbed a facemask and two shoe covers. I put them on. I walked into the room.

"Goddamn it, Cutter. Why in the fuck do you keep holding your needle like this? You're ripping apart this man's aorta. How many times do I have to tell you that you're doing it wrong? You hold your needle holder as if you were holding some kind of a dildo and vibrating it all over. Here, give me this."

"Good morning. I'm Doctor Mick Baldi. I'm the new intern on the service," I said as I stood behind the surgeon who just spoke. He was about six feet three inches tall. He had a cowboy hat on covered with a surgical cap. His Western boots were made with rattlesnake leather. He slowly turned around and looked at me. With his sharp eyes, he scanned me from head to toe without saying a single word. He turned again to face the operating room table.

"Now, Cutter. You better get this straight this time. Look, here. This is the angle at which you need to sew the vessel. You go twice into the graft and once into the native vessel. Do you think you can handle it? Do you think you're capable?"

"Yes, sir," replied the younger surgeon as he was handed the instrument.

I was curious as to what they were doing. I walked around the scrub nurse who was standing next to the cowboy and took a peek.

"Is that the pancreas next to the retractor?" I asked pointing to the belly.

The cowboy turned around and looked at me again. He stared at me for five seconds and then faced the operating room table.

"Tell this moron what it is. Tell him also that it's his last question for the day," he finally said.

"No, that's the duodenum," answered the younger surgeon.

I walked back and stood behind the cowboy. I looked around the room. The anesthesiologist was hiding behind his machine and drug cabinet. On the opposite side of the table stood the other surgeon. To the right of the room sat the circulating nurse. I got bored. Twenty minutes later, I decided to talk again.

"Good morning. I'm Doctor Mick Baldi. I'm the new intern on your service."

"DICK, WHO?" I heard the cowboy ask.

"Mick Baldi," I nervously answered.

Suddenly, he turned around and faced me. He waved at me with the clamp he held in his right hand.

"Speak only when you're asked to do so. I don't fuckin' need to know your name. As far as I'm concerned, you're Rastus Internus, my intern. Your ass is incarcerated on my service for the next year of your life, whether you like it or not. You're now on the Harshberg service. The vascular service. I'm demanding, Rastus. I have sick patients on this service. Your goal is to take care of them. This ain't medical school, son. This is life and death. We save lives on this service. And in order to do so, you'll work when I tell you to, you'll eat and shit when I tell you to, and you'll sleep whenever the nurses let you. Meet your chief resident, Cutter Ungaman," he tilted his head to indicate the younger surgeon, "his orders are my orders. You need to keep him updated on all the patients at all times. Now, get out of my surgical field before you contaminate it. And don't disturb us with any of your stupid questions. Just stand in that corner until we're done with the case."

He turned around and looked down on the belly.

"WHAT IN THE HOLY FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING, CUTTER? You just butchered his aorta. God, damn. Inger, give me back the aortic clamp."

He pushed Cutter's hands out of the belly and grabbed the bleeding aorta with his right hand.

"Jesus Christ, we were almost done with the case. Shit, his kidneys are going to be fucked. Where's that clamp?"

"Right here," replied Inger as she handed him the instrument.

He took it and tried to clamp the aorta.

"THIS IS THE WRONG CLAMP," he shouted. "You know that I never like to use DeBAKEY clamps."

"Doctor Miller from cardiac always does," replied Inger.

"I DON'T GIVE A DAMN WHAT OTHERS USE," he yelled as he threw the DeBAKEY clamp across the room. It barely missed Cutter. "You get me my clamp."

"We don't have it in this set."

"Open one of my sets, then. Do it now, before this man dies," he looked at Cutter. "Were you trying to kill this man?"

"No, sir."

"Are you licensed to kill or to cure, son?"

"Licensed to cure, sir."

"You need to concentrate on what you're doing, son. Where's that clamp?"

"Here," replied Inger as she quickly opened another sterile set of surgical instruments.

He held the clamp in the air and looked at Cutter again.

"I can't believe that you're my chief resident. It's your last year and you can't even put a blood vessel back together. What do you want me to do with you? Send you to the orthopedic surgeons' service?"

"No, sir."

He looked down and clamped the aorta. He switched sides with Dr. Ungaman and spent the next half hour sewing the graft. Dr. Ungaman stood there and watched. Everyone was quiet.

"His aorta is fine now. But I don't know how hard his kidneys were hit. Go ahead and close the belly," he said to Cutter as he took off his apron and walked out of the room.

"Ron, put on some music," requested Cutter.

"Right away, Doctor Ungaman."

He went to the radio and turned on some country music.

"Mick, come stand next to me," said Cutter.

I walked and stood next to him and watched him close the belly.

"Crazy morning. It isn't like this every day. Are you allright?"


"I'm sorry that Doctor Harshberg was a little tough on you. Don't take it personal. He's a little anal at times. He trained at the big house."

"Big house?"

"Mass Genital. I mean Mass General in Boston. Don't worry about him. You and I will work together. You'll mostly see him in the operating room. Some days are better than others. This was a bad morning. Don't worry. It isn't always stressful. Just follow his orders. Never argue with him. Always say yes, sir or no, sir. Never give him many details. He likes you to scrub on every case. Make sure you hang the films on the board before he comes in. He wants you to take care of all the patients. But I'm always around to back you up if you need me. I have my pager on at all times. Don't hesitate to call me. I'll show you around after this case."

He continued to close the belly.

"Welcome, Doctor Baldi," said Inger and Ron, the nurses in the room.

"Thank you. Doctor Ungaman..."

"Please, call me Cutter."

"Cutter, why did he call me Rastus?"

"I heard that's what he has always called his intern."

"What does it mean?"

"I don't know. Supposedly, it's either a southern or Texan term."

"Is that where he's from?"

"He's from the heart of Texas. Born and raised to be a cowboy."

Chapter One Chapter Three

Copyright © 1996 Maher Abbas, M.D. All rights reserved