(Note: 100.000 in German is 100,000 in English) After two weeks of doing nothing but studying the anatomy of the human abdominal cavity, I was quite relieved to get a new assignment from my German medical student. She told me that it was time to begin learning about specific laparoscopic procedures that are relevant to her project. First up was the good ol’ cholecystectomy or as the Germans call it Cholezystektomie. Using a website called webop.de, I managed to get a pretty good understanding of the different steps involved in surgically removing the gallbladder. What really cemented the process in my head, however, was being able to perform a cholecystectomy all on my own last Thursday! No, it wasn’t on a real person, but it felt pretty close on a simulator called the LAP Mentor. All you need to know about the LAP Mentor is that is essentially a 100.000 € videogame in which the different levels are different training modules and laparoscopic procedures, such as the cholecystectomy. Needless to say, it is definitely the coolest thing I have done during my internship so far! The module has actual graspers that you use as the controls. When you grab an organ on the screen, it feels exactly like you are grabbing an organ down below. I was able to confirm this feeling when during a workshop last Thursday, I got to try my hand at doing a cholecystectomy on a real pig liver inside of a sealed container. The other participants and I all took turns cauterizing the tissue attaching the gall bladder to the liver, putting clamps on the cystic duct and cystic artery, etc. And this was all with the same equipment that real surgeons use! At one point, the gall bladder burst open and all the lovely pig bile leaked out of it, but collectively we managed to finish the cholecystectomy, albeit a bit messily. Of course, now I have come to terms with the importance of the tedious task of learning the intricacies of human anatomy. Once you get inside the human body, nothing looks nice and neat as an anatomy atlas would have you believe. Therefore, when you’re cutting an artery, you better make sure you’re cutting the right one! Finally, the next time you experience severe pain in the right upper quadrant, give me a call. I am 100% unofficially certified to remove your gallbladder!
I’ll end with a short anecdote that my friends from the South will appreciate, I think. It sort of depends on whether or not you consider Kansas a part of the South, but bear with me. On Wednesday night, my new German friend Niclas invited Shivalik and I to celebrate with him, since he had successfully completed an exam earlier in the day. We started off at his place and then migrated to Hauptstraße (Main Street), where Niclas’s classmate Cornelius lives. Shivalik and I introduced ourselves, and when Cornelius heard that we were both from the States, his face lit up. He immediately began explaining to us how he had studied abroad in Kansas when he was in high school. The best part was that everything came out in an almost flawless Southern accent! Cornelius told us this great story about how one night shortly after he arrived in this small town in Kansas, he and his new American friends went up to a roof on Main street. “We started throwin’ light bulbs onto the street,” he said, “’’cause, s*** man, there’s nothin’ to do in Kansas, so the kids throw light bulbs onto the street!” After a short time, the town’s sheriff arrived. Of course, he had this really thick Southern accent, so poor Cornelius had absolutely no idea what he was saying to him. After being forced to transition into life in Germany, I was definitely able empathize with him, but at the same time, everyone, including Cornelius, was laughing so hard that the experience is clearly one that Cornelius remembers fondly.
What else? I saw another operation today! This one was to correct a hiatus hernia. Gotta get up early tomorrow to observe an actual cholecystectomy. Maybe they’ll ask me to help out haha. Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!