Sunday, December 16, 2012

They stand at the end of the line, near the foot of the bed, away from the action. While everyone is looking one way, a lone entity looks at another, fussing over a table littered with blood streaked instruments. They are the quiet ones often pushed at the end of the field while a handful of assists grapple with retractors and bang each other's heads for a good view of the action. 

They are the silent ones with roving eyes and reeling minds, mentally counting sponges and having that mini heart attack whenever one is nowhere to be found. They are consistently the first on the scene to set up the suite and the last one to go after the patient has been transferred to the recovery room. Then even after that, there are the myriad of instruments to be washed, dried and packed for sterilization. 

While surgeons battle their inflamed appendices, myomas, gallbladders, cysts and a variety of infected tissues, scrub nurses are in combat with a different kind of villains. Each and every one has his/her own share of "Kelly. KELLY!!!" scenario, unavailable sutures, deaf moments, missing sponges and unfamiliar instrument names of unknown origin and appearance. 

Truth is, no patient nor relative is going to thank a scrub nurse for a successful operation. In fact, they are rarely seen by those they serve. Hidden behind masks, the drowsiness of anesthetized patients, and commonly in the shadows of the operating theater lights and the egos of more important people, one could easily underestimate the utmost significance of that unassuming person scrubbed in at the end of the table, waiting to serve.

To assist selflessly as the heroes work their magic in battling the forces of internal anomalies is a trademark of all dedicated scrub nurses. Never mind the grumbling stomach, clogged nose, full bladders, aching feet and, by god, the varicose veins. Never mind the burn out of assisting in a 6-hour operation, doing post-op care to the patient and yet still have 2 trolleys full of used instruments to wash, dry and pack.

Because then, where would surgeons be without their scrub nurses? Where would Aladin be without his Genie? Bruce Wayne without his ever loyal Alfred? Frodo without Sam? Harry Potter without Ron and Hermione? Nemo without Dory? Edward Cullen without his hypoallergenic foundation and body glitter?

A successful major operation is achieved not by individual brilliance nor state of the art equipment. It is by teamwork that lives are saved and souls are once again tethered to this mortal coil. Heroes may swing and punch and flex their bulging muscles, but it is the keepers of the weapons, among others, who help them succeed in their sacred endeavor.

The clanging of swords in a mid-century war clashing for freedom or territory rings the same bell as the resounding clink of scattered steel instruments in a mayo table in battling stubborn bleeders and messed up anatomy. We are all fighting the same war, saving the same lives. And the scrub nurse plays a crucial role in the struggle, even without the spotlight. 
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