Last Monday, I had my last day of work at Charite hospital, and boy, what a last day it was! Everything started out the same as usual. The nurses and I did the morning rounds at 7 AM, entering every room after the team of doctors had finished to care for the patients. At 8 AM, I distributed breakfast to the patients (I am now really good at pouring cups of coffee with any combination of milk, sugar, artificial sweeteners, grape sugar). After I collected the breakfast trays from the rooms, however, the head nurse said that I would finally get to see an operation! She told me to report to the operation station in 15 minutes and that first I could eat some breakfast. In the break room, I sought to find a balance between eating enough that I wouldn’t get hungry during the operation and not so much that I might throw up. I had never seen an operation up to that point and I had not even been told what kind of operation I would be seeing. I decided to head downstairs a little bit early, since I didn’t want to miss the first incision, but it turned out I arrived plenty early. I entered the operation room with a new set of sterile clothes, a mouth covering and a shower cap as the nurses and doctors prepped all the equipment and instruments for the operation. The patient was lying in a bed and raised his hand slightly upward to greet me. “Hallo,” I said in reply. Once everything was ready, the procedure began by sticking a line with a camera down the patient’s throat to check for any new cancerous growths. This was actually the worst part I thought, since the patient was awake and looked like he was in a lot of pain the entire time. It was interesting to see the inside of his throat on the television screen. I only wish there could have been a more comfortable way of performing that first procedure. Next, the anesthesiologist put the patient to sleep and the head surgeon made the first incision. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to faint, I looked on with great interest as the surgeon cut deeper and found the skin tumors less than an inch under the surface of the patient’s left leg and abdomen. After the first surgeon removed a tumor, the second surgeon, who I think was doing the German equivalent of a residency, began sewing the patient back up. I was surprised by how little blood there was. The surgeons used these heated knives and prongs that immediately burned the flesh and prevented most of the bleeding. I also looked on with great interest as the anesthesiologist did his work. He recorded different readings throughout the operation and checked the patient’s pupils every once in a while to make sure that they were not too big. He told me that this was one way of measuring how much pain the patient was in. After about three hours, the surgeons used a staple gun to put the finishing touches on closing up the wounds and the anesthesiologist removed the gas tube. A few minutes later, the patient suddenly woke up and his first reaction after taking a deep breath of air was to try to get up. It took four people to hold him down before he realized what was going on and lay back down calmly. After the team of doctors and nurses used a sliding pad to transfer the patient from the operating table back to his bed, I headed back up to my station. At that point, it was 2 PM, closing time. I said my final goodbyes to the nurses and secretly left a little note for them expressing my gratitude on their bulletin board as I left.
I definitely feel a little sad that the internship is over now. There are many random things that remind me of the different patients and nurses. For example, there was one friendly diabetic patient who would always say “drücken” (push) to me in a very commanding way as I was squeezing blood out of his finger. Now, I always hear his voice in my head whenever I push a door open. I also have been frequently listening to the Berlin radio station 104.6 RTL (check it out online!), since that is the station the nurses would always have on during break. Really though, my journey toward becoming a doctor is just beginning, so I think the main part of me is really looking forward to my next internship in Heidelberg that will begin on May 14 in which I will be helping a PhD student with her project on developing laparoscopic surgery technology that focuses on an anatomical area called the retroperitoneum. Should be fun!
In other news, there was one weird night where I couldn’t stay in my apartment, since a new person was moving in and I couldn’t begin crashing in my flatmate Frederic’s room (Danke Frederic!) until the next night. So my friend Conor was nice enough to host me for a night (Danke Conor!). We went to this Mexican restautant called Alcatraz that claims to have the best fajitas in Berlin and although I have not had fajitas anywhere else in the city, I would not dispute this claim! Finally, I checked out the Berlin Wall Documentation center one day and that was pretty cool. That’s all for now! I’ll have some traveling to report on next time. Danke furs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!