I used to think Cudworth hated me. Not anymore. Hate is an emotion and I’m pretty sure Cudworth is incapable of any emotions. Sorry, that’s Doctor Cudworth to people like you and worms like me. Of course, I’m not really a worm—I’m lower than that. I’m a first year surgery resident. In the mind of Dr. Simon Cudworth, the only things lower are hard core heroin addicts, carriers of the bubonic plague, and medical students.
If it wasn’t for the medical students I think I might expire from despair. At least they look up to me. To them I am special—a real doctor, and a surgeon to boot. I even take the time to learn their names. In return they respect and admire me. At least I hope so.
It certainly seems that no one else does. The attendings ignore me. The nurses shake their heads and cluck their tongues whenever I pass by. And the senior residents all wish that I would just go away. Like I might steal some of their precious OR time or something. Not much encouragement there. Except of course from Yacov.
One time Dr. Cudworth had scraped the bottom of the barrel low enough to consent to have me as an OR assist. Second assistant, of course. That meant I got to stand in an awkward position holding retractors until my arms went numb while Dr. Cudworth and Yakov explored the unknown reaches of the patient’s inner being. For most of the procedure the only words Dr. Cudworth said to me were, “More retraction.”
Finally near the end of the procedure he deigned to actually teach me something. Jabbing at something with a pair of forceps, he looked at me. “What is this structure?”
“I don’t know. I can’t see it.”
“Well, more retraction. Lean forward and take a look.”
I obeyed. “That’s the superior pancreatic duodenal artery.” Dr. Cudworth grunted and looked away. I was right.
He looked at me again. “I’m going to start to close now. You can cut.”
Bonus. I would actually get to do something even if it was only cutting sutures. I was involved in the case. Shifting the retractor to my left hand I took the scissor from the nurse and snipped the first suture.
“Too long,” Dr. Cudworth snapped.
I moved the scissors down a millimeter on the next one.
Up half a millimeter.
“I need someone who knows how long to cut sutures. Give the scissors back to the nurse. And more traction!” Dr. Cudworth finished one more suture and then slapped the needle driver into Yakov’s hand. “You can finish. I have a meeting.”
Yakov waited until Dr. Cudworth had scrubbed out and then turned to me. He held out the suture. “You need learn to cut the suture. I teach.”
“What? You want me to close?”
“How else I show you how cut sutures?”
The rest of the surgery went smoothly and as we stepped from the OR, I turned to Yakov. “Why’d you do that? Dr. Cudworth might be upset.” Yakov just waved a hand in the air. He wasn’t worried. “Still, why? Why are you looking out for me?”
He turned and looked me in the eye. “You remind me of Petrov.”
“Petrov? Was he a doctor back in Russia?”
“A colleague? A friend? Family?”
“No, he was a dog.”
A dog? I stepped back and stared at him. “Was he at least a good dog?”
Yakov’s face broke into a wide grin. “No. But I like him.”