Passing the baton
Back story: On the 8th of June we were in Texas at our son's house for a BBQ celebrating his oldest daughter and our grand daughter's high school graduation. As is common with family get togethers, we were all gathered in the kitchen chatting about a multitude of topics. I was sitting next to the graduate's sister, Crystal Lily (pictured at left) who engaged me in a conversation about her goals for the future. Mind you, she is about to enter the ninth grade.
Crystal: "I want to be a surgeon."
G-Pa: (that's her current nickname for me. Her whole life long she has been famous for her Crytalizims.) " What kind of surgeon do you want to be?"
Crystal: "Either a brain surgeon or a cardio-thoracic surgeon."
G-Pa: "wow, that's pretty ambitious. What makes you think that that's what you'd like to do?"
Crystal: " I like to see and touch things and find out how they work."
A discussion ensued that was essentially an anatomy and physiology mini-course, with Crystal asking pertinent questions one would expect from someone much older. I expected as much because of her astute observations and discussions we've had at our camp on the St. Lawrence River over the past 10 years. She travels here, to New York, from Texas every year to spend 3 - 4 weeks with us. I've watched her develop a pascal of talents; a good vocalist, budding guitarist, a talented artist, an accomplished competitive swimmer, world traveler, and not the least; an interesting conversationalist with all age groups. All of this in a thirteen year old.
Crystal: "G-Pa, could I go with you to the operating room when I come to camp this summer?"
G-Pa: " Let me check with the permission granters at the hospital, and if it's OK with them, I'd love to take you to work with me."
For a one day visit, it was determined that all she'd need would be a TB tine skin test. She was OK with that and her mother gave permission for us to get her tested when she came north.
On Friday, 11 July with TB test results in hand, we went to the outpatient surgery site where we were to do 18 cataract surgeries divided up between two rooms and one other CRNA (registered anesthetist.)
I've mentored many students from my position at the head of the OR bed in my 40+ year career. However none as young as Crystal. She displayed an attentiveness to the tasks being performed, be they anesthesia, surgery or nursing, as well as any student I've seen and more so than some much older. She asked pertinent questions and was forthcoming with salient answers to questions from everyone. The staff treated her with respect and a willingness to teach her, and were surprised to find out that she was "only" thirteen, thinking her to be at least 16.. It was a full day of surgery lasting a little more than than 8 hours and she never sat down with the exception of our lunch break. She did express that her feet were sore at the end of the day from standing so much.
Crystal: "Do cardio-thoracic surgeons have to stand that long when they operate?"
G-Pa: " yes they do and some brain surgeries take longer than 8 hours!"
I made two faux pas this day, one was failing to introduce Crystal to the surgeon first thing; he had to ask during the surgery who the observer was. Poor form on my part for which I apologize. I did introduce her to each patient and ask their permission for Crystal to observe.
From that point on, Dr. Ishman took time to engage Crystal in a give and take about her goals and what choices she was making, offering advice and tips to make the road a little easier. One such tip was that if she did decide to pursue the path to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon, that she postpone geting married until she was finished with her training. He took time to explain to her each step in the process of cataract removal and insertion of the replacement lens, making sure the extra microscope was positioned so she could see closely what he was explaining.
Number two faux pas was forgetting to take a picture of her in her surgical garb. I was too taken up with the seriousness of the tasks at hand, ( trying to set a proper example for my grand daughter) and she sensing as much was reticent to ask even though it crossed her mind. We actually put Face Book on the back burner for that time.
Crystal expressed a complete satisfaction with her experience both surgical and otherwise. Otherwise being intimate girly talk with Anne and Christine, thinking it humorous when they asked her how old she was and the shocked looks on their faces. They declared her to be only a baby; Chris noting that her son was Crystal's age.
On the way home: Crystal: "Can I go with you to the OR again next year?"
G-Pa: "If you're still interested, yes."
Last night we text-ed my friend Leigh, an OB/GYN surgeon and asked if he'd like to take Crystal to work with him this week. They share a birth date to which Crystal has always laid claim to as hers, but said to tell Leigh that she'd give the date back to him if he'd take her to work with him.