There’s a first for everything… 

As expected, this year has brought me many firsts. Mostly good, some bad, all interesting. I’ve picked a few to share with you. 

1. First time operating (not assisting): Last week I printed a surgery report with my name next to the words ‘Surgeon 1’. Okay, it was a really straight forward skin graft, and a real surgeon stood behind me and peered over my shoulder the whole time but it’s still my name next to those words. And as a bonus, the patient survived the surgery! 

2. First time being sworn at by an 80 year old lady: As a surgical intern you spend a lot of your time admitting patients for elective procedures. These patients are generally healthy and therefore a lot more talkative than most. The other day I had to admit an elderly lady. Before taking her blood, I warned her to keep still. Being a thousand years old her veins looked like they would pop if I so much as opened a needle near them. Obviously she didn’t listen to me and pulled her hand away as I entered a vein, which then, as predicted, popped and swelled up. She then thought it was appropriate to reprimand me with a “Fok, meisie kind!” Excuse the language, but an F followed by a few hashtags leaves too much room for interpretation.  

3. First time being sworn at by a 4 year old child: So you might forgive an 80 year old for swearing at you. She has had all those years to add curse words to her vocabulary and sometimes they slip out, but you can’t really say the same for a 4 year old. Apparently not. I was removing a piece of crayon from a child’s ear in EC (I know! Why?!) and I was treated to the most colorful array of swear words I’ve ever heard. Some of them were words I have never even spoken myself. If I had cursed like that as a child by mom would have skipped the soap and gone straight for a kitchen knife. In fact I think the same would still apply today. Needless to say, her mother was very embarrassed and assured me that she had no idea where she learnt to talk like that. And the waiting room was thoroughly entertained. 

4. First time coming home from the hospital and not feeling bad about doing nothing: Best feeling in the world! Apart from forcing myself to do some form of exercise, after work I am free! No projects, no test to study for, no patient write ups. If I want to come home from work, sit on my couch, watch The Bachelor and eat cookie dough, then I’ll do that! 

5. First time I’ve had to clean maggots out of a man’s head: Yes, you read that correctly. A man came into EC with a deep laceration on his head, that was a week old. When he took off his beanie to show me the wound, about 10 maggots literally fell on the floor and started squirming in all directions. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. There were about a hundred more swimming around in his wound, looking at me, like baby birds waiting for their mom to bring them dinner. Instead I brought them a syringe full of hydrogen peroxide. So yes, this year brought me my first maggot infested wound, and unfortunately it most likely won’t be my last. 

6. First time being bribed: I never thought I’d ever be in the position to be bribed, but it seems being a doctor leaves you open to bribery. Apparently, the going price to move up in the queue is R10. I don’t know about my colleagues but I’d like a bit more than that. Actually, edible bribes are preferred. Anything containing chocolate will definitely let you jump three or four places. A Chai Latte will get you straight to the front of the queue. Throw in a chocolate chip cookie and I’ll even give you a sick letter. 

7. First time pronouncing somebody dead: This is a particularly tough one. And what makes it even tougher is realizing after a while that you’ve become desensitized, and by the fourth or fifth death certificate you don’t really feel anything. Every now and then a particularly difficult death does remind you that you are human after all. Like the death of a child, or one where there are a number of relatives, or a death you completely didn’t expect. 

8. First time successfully performing CPR and pronouncing someone ‘undead’: On the flip side, being apart of saving someone’s life is an amazing feeling. The first resuss I was involved in actually wasn’t successful, but since then I’ve been apart of a few successful ones, and it’s these kind of firsts that make it all worth while in the end.

Those are just a few firsts that came to mind, there are many more I haven’t mentioned, and I’m sure there are plenty more to come. It’s exhilarating and exciting, and it also means I keep learning. Learning how to treat new conditions, deal with different personalities and handle strange situations. Firsts can be scary too, and some of the firsts that are waiting for me give me minor anxiety attacks, but I know in the end they will just give me more experience and definitely will make me a better Doctor (and hopefully person, although the jury is still out on that one).

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