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Memoirs of an Abused General Surgery Medical Student, Part IV

September 13, 2006
edit, 12:45 am – I found this FoxTrot to be hilarious


kr’s note:  The hierarchy of general surgery (from lowest to highest):
1. intern (aka first year resident)
2. second year to fourth year residents
3. chief resident
4. attending surgeons
5. chief of surgery

Gotta love the Arabs: Christ Hospital is located very close to the Bridgeview area, so we would get a lot of Arab patients. I got a lot of brownie points by being able to speak to patients in Arabic from the residents since we could save time by not having to call in a translator. So that’s another reason to learn Arabic: it will come in handy if you ever end up rotating through Christ Hospital as a medical student. Anyway, the good part about this was that I got to have a lot of contact with Muslim patients and make sure they were treated fairly and properly. There was one time when no one bothered explaining the diagnosis to an old Palestinian lady with pancreatitis and I went and explained to her what was wrong, why her surgery was delayed (her potassium level was too low), etc. She really took a liking to me since I was the only one she could communicate with. She was in the hospital for more than a week, and everyday I’d make sure I’d go see her a few times during the day. I’d sit and chat with her, she’d ask me to recite Qur’an for her, and we discussed the (then current) crisis in Lebanon and Palestine. On the day she was leaving, her son and daughters came into take her home. When I walked in, she started telling them how I was good to her. Then she smiles at me and asks me, “Hal anta mutazawwijun?” (Are you married?). I blushed furiously as I said no, that I was not. She said that she has two granddaughters, aged 21 and 19, then writes down her number and tells me to give this to my mom and have her call if she was interested. So what’s the point of this story? Knowing Arabic (or any secondary language) will help you to take care of non-English speaking patients… and it might even get you married =).

Yet another reason why boys need to sign up for the school of tameez: While it was enjoyable to take care of Muslim patients, there was one case that sickened and infuriated me, to the point wherein I still think I want to hurt this guy. What happened was a young Arab woman came in on a Saturday night with classic signs of appendicitis. I wasn’t working that weekend, so I’m not sure why, but they decided to schedule her for surgery on early Monday morning. When I walked into morning rounds on Monday, I could hear my chief resident cursing up a storm: “I can’t believe that a–hole husband did that, what a fu–in’ jerk”. He was clearly ticked. When someone asked him why he was so upset, he told them that the young woman, who was scheduled for surgery later that morning, had checked out of the hospital late Sunday night against medical advice (AMA). It turns out that her husband couldn’t handle the 4 month old baby crying at home and wanted the wife to come back home to take care of the child. “He was sick of the child crying and wanted his wife to come back home and take care of him”, the chief resident said. Had she gotten the surgery, her appendix would have been removed and that would be the end of that. But since she checked out, the appendix most likely will become worse (causing her even more pain), and may even possibly burst and become a true medical emergency. I felt ashamed that a Muslim man would do such a thing–to his own wife!–when I heard this. In other words, this (word of choice here) husband, because he couldn’t take care of his own kid, forced his wife to check out of the hospital (despite being warned of the dangers and risks of leaving) and essentially put his wife’s life in jeopardy. I’m not sure what became of the woman, since I left a week later. I could only hope and pray that it didn’t evolve into a true medical emergency.

Finally, I’ll end with Kazim’s favorite story, the climax of these memoirs…. (warning: you probably don’t want to be eating as you read this, or have just eaten a big meal… unless you’re in the medical field, since this sort of stuff doesn’t bother us anymore)

The peri-rectal abscess: The one case that I’ll never forget for as long as I live was the following one that involved a middle aged European man who came in with severe, excruciating pain around the anus to the point that he couldn’t sit anymore. He had what is called a peri-rectal abscess, which is basically a massive infection of an anal gland (aren’t you glad that our Prophet taught us proper hygiene after answering the call of nature?) that proliferates, forming a pocket of pus internally that is walled off from the rest of the body. Just by reading that, you can figure out how painful that is. So this guy is in massive pain by the time he came into the ER, and even though he was given painkillers that would sedate a horse, he was still in pain as we took him to the OR. He was given full anesthesia and placed in the lithotomy position:


The operation, known as an I&D (incision and drainage) basically involved cutting into the peri-rectal area and draining all the pus out to relieve the pain. Performing the operation was the attending surgeon (standing at the patient’s right leg), the intern (standing in the middle), and myself (standing at the left). There was an anesthesiologist at the head of the patient, and the scrub nurse to the side of me. I&D operations are normally relatively straightforward and easy: you basically cut and drain. Draining abscesses is considered to be the bane of general surgery, but these patients are extremely grateful because you’ve relieved their pain. Since it was a simple operation, the intern was doing most of the work, with the attending guiding and me, the lowly medical student, observing. The operation started off well, the intern made the incision around the abscess, and some pus began to drain out. It wasn’t so bad, things were going well. The attending then says that the abscess is much deeper than that, so he jams his finger into the abscess; his finger is pretty much all the way in, as he’s feeling and prodding his way along to see how far the abscess goes…

Then he pulled his finger out.

Like the Niagara Falls, this fountain of greenish, brownish-black foul-smelling rancid pus shoots out with the force of a fire hose, spraying and splashing all over the floor and walls… and us (for me, thankfully only my shoes). I’ve smelled some nasty things in my life (walking by the slaughterhouse in Mina, an open sewage dump in India), but this by far was the nastiest, foulest thing I had ever smelled in my life. It was a mixture of crap, pakhana (which is masala crap, as the scholars of crap classification assert), spoiled cheese, putrid meat, rotten spaghetti sauce, and a dozen other smells so vile that no one has ever been able to describe them… with a hint of cinnamon (I kid). I nearly threw up, and backed away from the surgical field. The intern and scrub nurse too were nauseated and we were all trying to hold our breath in. The anesthesiologist, who was probably sleeping or checking his stocks, shouts out, “What the f–k is that smell?!” Of course, in the midst of all this is the attending surgeon, calm and collected, who shrugs his shoulders and nonchalantly tells us that he’s smelled worse. Luckily, the anesthesiologist had some cherry odor thing that he spread onto our masks so that we would smell that instead of this fluid from hell. It sort of helped, but after a while, it just added cherry to the mixture of smells we were experiencing. I looked at the sleeping man and thought to myself, “How can one man, singlehandedly, produce this biological weapon of a stench that was spreading over the entire room.” It’s freakishly amazing, if you think about it.

We quickly finished the operation, everything went well, the patient was fine. As soon as we finished, I ripped off my gown and trashed it. I had never felt as dirty in my life as I felt now, so I went to shower and change my scrubs, thinking that the smell would be gone. As I sniffed my arms and clothing, I couldn’t smell it, but I could smell it as if it were lodged inside my nose. I think the odor had somehow found a way to cling to me for the rest of the day. This smell was like this powerful force that enveloped everything, and no matter what I did, it was there, ever-present. Worse yet, people around me would sniff the air and be like, “what the hell is that?” and I had to pretend I couldn’t smell it… even though I could. When I got home, I trashed the scrubs and spent nearly an hour in the shower, furiously scrubbing in an effort to wash this smell off my very soul.

That night, my mom had made chawal and gosh ka salan (rice and lamb curry) for dinner, and as I was eating with my hands, I swear… I thought that I could… taste it. I was sniffing my hands and food, but I couldn’t smell it, I think that smell was still inside my nose and I was “tasting” it because of that–something like a post-traumatic taste syndrome.

The funny thing is that at that point, I didn’t care anymore: I shrugged my shoulders and continued to eat my dinner with my hand… and even had seconds.

So it goes.

So you still want to be a doctor…?


From → Uncategorized

  1. Aah, rasulullah (s) was indeed awesome, proper hygiene is a biggie!

  2. disgusting.

  3. lol the last part about getting seconds was hilarious. yeah that’s pretty gross but eh, that’s how it is in the medical field. that jerk of a husband pisses me off too…uff!

  4. Anonymous permalink


  5. biological weapon? Did any one tell Bush?

  6. next time you should put the good arab story second to make arab guys like myself look good

  7. duuuuuuuuude, that was awesome! EWWW…”It’s freakishly amazing, if you think about it.” TRUE, i want to meet this man. and uhhhm, hook up the number from the grand mama! i mean, we’re both stylish and dashing lads. i’ll just have to polish on my arabic

  8. Unrelated note- organic chemistry = Tree of Zaqqum in this dunya

  9. I don’t want to read this one. I saw the pic, and the quote “Niagara falls” …and suddenly I remembered your intense verbal description, and the fact that we were all eating when you were telling this to Emam. I shan’t go through it again.

  10. 1st story: muslim guys need to learn some [word of choice, not really a choice cause only one word fits here] respect for their wives. Would that guy ever treat his mother that way? I think not, so why treat your wife like garbage? Don’t these guys feel empathy? [word of choice] jerk. Makes me so mad! grrr….2nd story: lol, good one. Did you ever have to deal with stool samples? those are really sick. ewww.

  11. 1st story.. very cute Masha’Allah.. my mom always comes home with stories like that.. (sans the numbers)2nd.. too aggravating for words
    3rd.. eewwwwww.. gross gross gross!

  12. nice combo of stories.  and good closer, hah.  wow… in the end, glad u dived in for seconds too.  and speaking of 2nd languages, i agree man… it got some work done for me today. 

  13. KR, we need to organize a search party to find this jerk of a husband who calls himself a man and beat him down. Any chance that you remember his name or can find out? =)
    The rectal abcess story: that is disgustingly entertaining… did you ever tell that to people as they were eating? I wonder what the reaction would be like, lol.

  14. Kya Bolthay Isku……..IDIOT.I haven’t used that one in a long time.

  15. Dang! you have to go through all of that? Well, these are the days to suffer my man =)

  16. That story about the Arab husband makes my blood boil… I want to hurt that man. We should punch him repeatedly in the appendix until his appendix bursts so he knows how it feels. What a jerk, if he was that bad at taking care of kids, why did he have kids then? At the worst, didn’t he have any female relatives/friends/neighbors that could have helped out for a few days?

  17. i second almusafir…
    I was slightly bemused at the fountain of hell… but couldn’t stop thinking about the arab dude.  You should have called him up and spoke to him, seeing as that you speak arabic he may have been more sympathetic, believe or not, those idiots can be gotten to, it just requires you think like an idiot.
    anyways, interesting.  salaam.

  18. Story One: I want to learn all the languages in the world [if I possibly could]. Along with Arabic, I think Farsi is an asset too. It makes life rich & EXOTIC[HAHAHAHA I said it!]. Plus, you’re right about the marriage thing. DAMN HOMIE! lol j/k. Who am I kidding?
    Story Two: We can pretend like you never said this and I never read it, give me some info. about you know who and you know where and you know for what, and I’ll take care of the matter.
    On a more serious note, I think men alone don’t contribue to these problems. Women can play an important role in letting these men know that they are not going to tollerate those attitutes. Can you immagine, a young boy, who grows up in a home like that and just watches his mother be submissive [obedient?] to his father…. what kind of  imprint will that sittuation leave on his mind? And later, the sort of things he will expect from women in future relationships? Conclusion: Women have choices. Especially, living in North America – we CHOOSE to be in certain sittuations which we can otherwise get out of. Sadly, the fact that mother/wife left the hospital on her husbands command/request speaks volumes about her own choices and the fact that she found that to be a justifiable ‘expecation’ from a husband [in such a sittuation]. At the end of the day, its a two way street.
    Story Three: Tobahastakfirullah. Nautious.
    I still feel sick – just by the thick description. I don’t know why the people in the operating room didn’t collapse with the trauma.
    No, doctors will surely go to Jannah for the mighty work they do, but not all of us are going to Jannah anyways. I’m going try my daily 5 namaz and all the other good stuff, because …hahaha doctor? No. Nonetheless, hopefully, I’ll be there in Jannah with all the doctors. And if I could speak proper French in Jannah, it would be nice to meet a french speaking doctor! hahhahahah! oooooo Actually, I take all of that back. Plus, it sounds too much like the whole get virigins in heavean theory that Western media slaps at Muslims.
    There should be good books stores in Jannah. ANYWAYS.
    Later, Jazak’Allah’ul’Khairum.

  19. that last story was ewwwwwwwwwwwww 🙂

  20. yummy.

  21. That last story is making my butt hurt…that was just…oh man. I keep replaying the finger coming out and the gush of putrid fluid…and splashes on the scrubs and shoes…over and over in slow motion. I can only imagine how you must have felt.
    Also I have to agree thewhale786. Women do play a vital role in male behavior, whether it’s allowing their husbands to act the way this fellow did or failing to teach their sons to be responsible fathers and husbands.  You gotta fight for you right man..that’s just how it goes. The funniest thing is that if this guy had just bore with it for a few days, the wife would have gotten better and went home to take care of the kid and serve her husband’s every whim and fancy. Now, she runs the risk of death and he the sole responsibility of this kid for the rest of his life….good job Al-Ahmaq!

  22. 1st story: very nice.2nd story: The guy deserves a rectal abscess3rd story: I’ve smelled worse. 2 words. feculant emisis. (Secondary to a Large bowel obstruction)

  23. lol Dude! I can’t help but point out that I’ve gotten the largest number of hits [by-far] on my very empty blog as a consiquence of the [supposedly ludicrous] comment I left, in your ever-so-popular blog. Seems like you have a fat audience. Thick. Huge. Large. Etcetera. Way to go! Lates. Jazak’Allah.

  24. Black undies and feet in stirrups. Don’t know why and don’t want to either but hey…great picture.

  25. 3rd story: Wow, I can just imagine the whole thing happening…man I’ve been watching tooooo much ER, and what do you know I’m late for the show…

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