If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my first week of pediatric surgery, it’s my inability to deal with the fact that young children are capable of such horrible illnesses. It disgusts me to think that there are “healthy” individuals out there who practice high risk behaviors on a daily basis (binge drinking, illicit drug use, etc.) but these children face chronic quality-of-life issues not of their own choosing.
Some of the things I’ve seen in the operating room: lung lobectomy, laparoscopic appendectomy/cholecystectomy/splenectomy, gastric tube placements, umbilical hernia repair, incision/drainage of a joint, and a total colectomy. While the procedures are awesome, it’s the medical history which necessitated surgery which often troubles me – children with sickle cell disease, glycogen storage diseases, enzyme deficiencies, genetic conditions which increase the risk for certain cancers, etc.
Never did I have to think about changing a colostomy bag. Or follow up regularly to have my thyroid levels checked. Or have to worry about a sickle cell crisis around the corner. In that sense, I’m very fortunate, but at the same time, it pains me to know that there are children out there who cannot say the same. 🙁
In spite of these feelings of frustration, I’m truly amazed by how far medicine has come to serve the needs of even the youngest of patients. Doing complicated laparoscopic procedures on toddlers and lung lobectomies on babies only weeks old… it’s just something which could only be dreamt of hundreds of years ago. In the process, I’ve developed a sincere respect for those who pursue pediatric surgery – it’s a wonderful combination of continuity-of-care and knowing that, from the earliest milestones of an individual’s life, they have made a significant (often life prolonging) difference.
Also, I’m continually amazed by the courage these children have. When the younger ones are wheeled to the operating room in race cars (making me very jealous), their expressions are a curious mixture of fright and happiness. During rounds the next day, opioid analgesics often get the best of their alertness, but there’s an inherent “thank you – I’m feeling much better” about their personas.
I’m really looking forward to starting this last week in pedi surg! 🙂