Saturday, 20 November 2010

Thanks, rookie doctors

Cor. It's amazing what you can find out on the web, innit? On my quest to find out more about suturing techniques and things to practice on, I found some random suggestions for materials to try on an old student doctor forum:
  • Banana peels
  • Grapes 
  • Latex glove
  • Pig's feet
  • Chicken breasts
  • Thick-sliced deli turkey
  • Graph paper
  • Your thighs (yikes)
Elsewhere, Rookie Doctor was rather useful. He led me here, to the Boston University School of Medicine's suturing basics. There's a rather lovely page full of new words for me to learn and pictures of old surgical teaching tools. I'm particularly liking Wound Man:

Friday, 19 November 2010

This had me in stitches

Fantastic! Found a video that shows how to do subcuticular suturing, which I believe is the technique Mr A used to suture my back-skin areola to the breast-skin envelope after mastectomy and LD reconstruction. The stitches are hidden under the skin for cosmetic reasons — to minimise scarring on the new breast. I'm in a quest now to find a suitable replacement fabric for skin to show people how it's done — I know from experience that fuzzy felt, sponge balls and orange peel don't work.

As luck would have it, I'm doing an orange surgery workshop on 13th December, and the Royal College of Surgeons is interested in meeting both me and Mr A and doing a write-up on our collaboration.  I've asked if they wouldn't mind bringing me one of their fake arms to work on. A bit of a cheek, I know, but I've been to their gaff and they've got all sorts of interesting bits and pieces to help teach suturing to novices, without using, y'know, real skin. I'm hoping I can wheedle a breast out of the arm-maker at one point. Don't be alarmed — this might sound a bit Burke and Hare, but I've found understanding and playing with anatomy and surgical techniques have made me feel a whole lot better about my body. And I'd like to pass that on.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

It takes all sorts ...

It pains me to say it, but I haven't had time for my blog lately and I've been duly uninspired. But ho! Salvation has come in a surgical form, once again, as I headed off to the Hunterian museum at the Royal College of Surgeons during half term and got all excited over a presentation about lancets, leeches and bloodletting, surrounded by skeletons and carefully-preserved wobbly bits in jars. I'm not a bloodthirsty sort, honest, just strangely hooked on understanding the craft of surgery (in my own way) — and now, I'm also intrigued by the history and cultural perceptions of surgery. Oh, and also the people who are interested in it too — such as artists and historians, as well as the surgeons.

Did you know that the medieval surgeon was also a barber? I didn't. Seems they had all the tools at hand to snip anything away, from barnets to limbs. They were very useful on the battlefield, helping wounded soldiers (or not). It took a good few years before surgery broke away from hairdressing once and for all, although the surgeons didn't mind the barbers offering the odd bloodletting therapy, like. I don't remember exactly, but apparently the barber pole's red stripe represents bloodletting, and the white represents a knowledge of anatomy; teaching physicians would lean over a cadaver waving a white wand at various body parts. Eurgh. Fast forward to me learning anatomy with a colouring book.

Anyway, one of the intriguing elements of the presentation was the historical interpreter, Rory McCreadie. I'm not sure whether that's his real name or not. He was dressed from head to toe in seventeenth-century barber-surgeon togs, and his wife was there too — also wearing a costume. She sat and sewed while Rory explained his array of gruesome instruments. He role-played a finger amputation on a young lad, followed up with vivid analogies of rotting fruit as gangrene set in and then, an amputation at the elbow with what looked like a rusty hand-held scythe. Eeeee. Turns out the instruments were reproductions (although the leeches were real). Rory and his wife are members of the Civil War Society — I think I've got that right. Rory is also a hairdresser, and he explains his sideline as an "interest in the history of my trade." I imagined them re-enacting wars and doing seventeenth-century haircuts on their Civil War Society friends. I wonder if they do parties?