I’ve always found medicine interesting, but also, how you say, gross. I shadowed a general surgeon once, and watched him remove a gall bladder (pre-laparoscope days), repair a hernia, do a breast biopsy and one other procedure I can’t recall. It left two overwhelming impressions, the first of tenderness for the patients, whom I only saw after they were completely anesthetized. Laid out on their tables, their heads tipped to one side, skin stained with Betadine, their most intimate body parts exposed, it was almost unbearable to watch them. I wanted to cup their cheeks and kiss their foreheads, tell them they’d be OK.
The other was that all that crap about the “delicate hands of a surgeon” is just that — crap. “Nancy, would you like to see the appendix before I take it out?” the doctor asked. (Apparently it’s routine to snip the appendix anytime you’ve got the abdomen open.) I said OK, took my look, and watched as this very competent general surgeon stuffed the patient’s large intestine back into her cavity with all the grace and care I bring to stuffing my Thanksgiving turkey. Doctors are, essentially, very highly skilled, and highly paid, mechanics.
But it was the breast biopsy that got to me the most, for obvious reasons. The patient was a woman in her 40s with a long history of benign lumps, and fortunately this one was, too. But it took a chunk out of her breast, and so it made me think of the big C and the small r (that would be “reconstruction,” for those who cannot read my mind).
Which made me think of plastic surgeons, the bastards.
OK, they’re not bastards. But there’s a reason they’re not cardiologists, either. About 10 years ago, a top-heavy stripper won a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. She’d deducted the cost of her implants as a business expense, the IRS disallowed it, and she appealed, and won. The woman was nobody you’ve heard of, but it turned out she “lived” in Fort Wayne, “lived” meaning she got her mail and spent a couple nights a year in an apartment there. It was a nice central location for the clubs she spent her life touring between. (The life of a B-list stripper is not a glamorous one.) And she’d had her surgery — surgeries — done there. Really? the city’s journalists queried as one. By whom? Sorry, folks, that was a secret more closely guarded than Dick Cheney’s undisclosed location. But one of the city’s corps of plastic surgeons had opened this girl up multiple times and installed implants of ever-ballooning size until she had the 54-inch bustline of a true stripping entrepreneur. (Part of her argument was that every surgery boosted her income by a predictable margin, and that once she was ready to retire she planned to have them removed, as they impeded life as a private citizen. Amish men at the mall would walk into walls staring at her.)
Call me crazy, but I don’t think this counts as “practicing medicine.” Whenever I talked to a plastic surgeon, I tried to balance the polarities of the job. On the one hand, a talented plastics specialist at Ohio State University had repaired the faces of two of my friends when they hit hard, unforgiving surfaces. Others gave women maimed by cancer a chance to feel whole again. But on the other, well, a doctor friend of mine put it best: “A kid with asthma in Brooklyn has to take four buses and trains in the middle of January to get a breathing treatment and we can’t seem to do anything about that, but let a cardiologist’s wife want to upgrade to a D-cup, and man, we are all over that.”
All this by way of taking the long way around to the NSFW link o’ the week: The Plastic Surgery Beauty Enhancement Awards, brought to you by Make Me Heal, for “all your cosmetic surgery and anti-aging needs.” Actually, the links above are SFW, but if you go further into the site — and don’t think I don’t know where you’re headed, you perverts — be advised it’s not only unsafe for work, but probably unsafe for breakfast, too. Especially some of the postop photos.
Nothing is sacred, but this, this! Is elephant dung on the Virgin Mary!
Oh, look. The president of the United States committed an act of craven bullshittery. Shocked, shocked. Etc.
Back to real work now. You all flay Scooter in the comments.