Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Gore resistance

I have been trying to think of ways that will make it easier for me to watch a mastectomy and reconstruction in the operating theatre without fainting. Many people have asked why I want to be around gory surgery when I don't have to. Oh, but I do have to. It's not that I want to change careers and train to be a surgeon. It's the fact that I am utterly intrigued by the craftsmanship and dedication (not to mention the cast-iron stomach) that surgery requires. Learning about it is helping me understand exactly what has happened to my body and to accept it not only as a necessary thing, but also a good thing. There is something therapeutic in the effort.

That said, these are my top 10 tips on how to build up one's gore resistance (unless you're vegetarian, in which case, you'll be giving number 6 a miss):

1. Watch Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies, the one about the reconstructed breasts. (See previous post 'why the gory details matter' to view the video.)

2. Watch a video of a benign brain tumour being removed.  Actually it could be a video of any random surgery. They happened to have brain surgery playing next to the (wool) spinning workshop at the Hunterian museum, where I spent last Friday evening. The spinning was a rather appropriate backdrop, I thought.

3. Try out suturing (wound stitching) on a fake limb. (I did that at the Hunterian, too. See previous post 'night at the museum'.)

4. Listen to the bit about mammary glands in 'Handsome Devil' by the Smiths. I have just uploaded it from i-tunes. It's important because, as I've said before, songs come into my head when I'm in crisis and I'm hoping this one might help me out in the operating room.

5. Colour in and study the anatomy of the mammary glands in The Anatomy Colouring Workbook. I might be able to engage in image-transference and pretend I'm looking at the book if I feel queasy.

6. Handle some raw liver and kidney. A bloke from St. John's Ambulance suggested this old chestnut when I was in the Girl Guides learning first aid. It's been about 25 years and I finally have a reason to try it.

7. Watch a video of mastectomy and LD reconstruction in the safety and comfort of home so you can press stop any time you like. Mr A is hoping to get patient permission for filming in early June for me. He says the camera is already set up in the operating room.

8. Invite a surgeon round to your house. Do a mastectomy run-through with an orange, so that you can see what happens to a piece of fruit first, rather than a breast. Mr A has already agreed to do this with my family. The kids are excited.

9. Experiment with a marzipan or playdoh reconstruction. My friend Kate suggested putting layers of the stuff on a doll to replicate skin and muscle to demonstrate how LD flap reconstruction works. You might have to invite a surgeon round for this one as well. Accuracy and all that.

10. Cross your fingers. Probably the most effective strategy of all.

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