Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

January 21, 2012

Becoming a Doctor 101

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 7:00 am

With all the belligerence of teenage rebellion, I’d repeated incessantly that I was NOT going to become a doctor. The doddering old people in my hometown, their eyes all watery with memories of the grandfather I never knew, would say:

“You’re going to be a doctor, too. Just like the first Dr. Mosher and like your father.” A lot of times, they’d just hobble away after saying that, not even interested in hearing my rebuttal.

Problem was, I had to decide what I was going to “become,” since college was looming and they kind of required at least a vague idea.

“Dad,” I asked my father one night over a dinner grown cold waiting for him to return from delivering yet another inconveniently timed baby. “What does Uncle Jim do?”

“Jim? He’s an engineer.”

I was halfway into my first semester when it occurred to me that I should have asked a couple more questions. To at least, you know, get some idea what engineers do. Because that Calculus stuff was incomprehensible. At least it was when delivered in the thick German accent of our world-famous professor of whom the university was so proud.

World-famous for something, maybe. Not teaching, unfortunately.

At the end of that first year, I was an engineering student with “C” s in math and no summer job.

“I can get you in at the hospital,” my father offered. “They need an Orderly. To help the nurses.”

It was either that – which kind of seemed like a compromise of my anti – Doctor position – or back to stacking two-by-fours at the lumberyard. After a brief internal debate, I decided I’d learned all I’d ever need to know about two-by-fours the previous summer.

They gave me white pajamas to wear. I bought some white shoes. The nurses taught me how to fetch ice for the oxygen tents, how to tuck sheets under a mattress, how to catheterize men, and how to shave men’s pubic hair in preparation for tomorrow’s surgery without performing inadvertent surgery with the razor.

The other Orderlies taught me how to hide from the nurses.

“Shouldn’t we be doing something?” I asked the other Orderlies as we smoked around the Utility Room bathtub.

“Sh-h! The nurses will hear you and find us. This is just a summer job for you, but for us, it’s lifetime employment. Don’t ruin it for everyone by working hard.”

Nancy wore white, too, like the rest of us. After all, she was a nurse. But she sure didn’t wear her white like everyone else. Skin tight. I was mesmerized by her uniform when she walked. It allowed me to accurately visualize the human body’s individual muscle movements. Especially the gluteus muscle ( I’d learned that term from reading the patients’ charts. I was becoming more interested in this Medicine stuff than I wanted to be). The muscles of her legs I didn’t need much imagination for, since her uniform stopped about mid thigh, and when she sat –

“Chuck !” called the old crusty Boss Nurse. “Are you real busy right now?”

Gosh, I hope my staring wasn’t obvious.

“We need something from Central Supply.”

“Sure.” I was always happier to work than sit around the tub, whispering and smoking.

“Go on down and tell them we need a left handed Fallopian Tube.”

“Okay. What’s it for? Is it a catheter?”

“Sure,” she smirked. I think I saw the other nurses behind her turn their faces away. “A catheter. Hurry.”

So down into the bowels of the old brick hospital I went. I called from the door for the lady who ran Central Supply.

“Whatcha need?” she pushed from the corner of her tobacco-stained mouth. Her ash-colored face, devoid of any make-up, revealed decades of boredom and complete apathy for her job.

“Left handed Fallopian Tube,” I chirped. At seventeen, jaded older folks had no effect on my moods.

Her eyes rolled. Her head drooped. She exhaled chronic exasperation. “You go tell those sluts on Three West to stop wasting my time!” and she disappeared among the labyrinthine shelves of her personal cave.

Now my mood was effected. How could I go back up there empty handed? Having failed in my mission? I never wanted to do that. But no amount of calling, whistling, or yelling would bring back the Central Supply lady.

“There’s a problem,” I stammered in my best attempt to sound professional while awash in the shame of failure.

Boss Nurse fluttered her sparse, un – mascaraed lashes. “Oh?”

The other nurses all turned their faces away again. All except Nancy. She wore a sympathetic half smile like someone watching a puppy. That’s not all she wore – or almost wore – but I tried hard to concentrate on the job at hand.

“So what’s the problem?” Boss Nurse prodded. One of the nurses behind her snickered, and I got suspicious.

“They’re out,” I said. “On back order.”

And the floodgates burst. Everyone, even I, laughed one of those long spasms of laughing that leaves your rectus abdominis muscles sore.

I wasn’t about to ask them what a Fallopian Tube was – I’d consult my parents’ encyclopedia at home, later. But I was curious about one new medical term.

“By the way,” I broke thru the waning laughter, wiping my eyes. “What’s a slut?”

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