My Patients’ Ovaries Before My Own
Manpreet Kaur, CPhT, NREMT
Kaur M. My patients’ ovaries before my own [published online June 1, 2018]. Consultant360.
The surgeon walked me over after I had scrubbed in for the first time, wearing a blue gown, reminding me to keep my hands elevated until we had covered the patient in a sterile field. After a few incisions, amniotic fluid gushed out, which I suctioned immediately. I could see hair as soon as the amniotic fluid cleared while the surgeon pulled the baby out through the incision. He handed the baby to me—only a second-year medical student on an island hospital in the Caribbean—to suction her nose and mouth. The baby laid there still, yet responsive to external stimuli. My eyes watched and replayed the moment of the baby being extracted from the uterus, head first. I stood there in shock that I was taking part in the procedure and was not a bystander watching from a room above, like in Grey’s Anatomy or House. I continued to suction until a pediatrician arrived and took the baby under her care.
The author suctioning during a cesarean delivery as a second-year medical student.
Meanwhile, the surgeon took my hands, and the next thing I noticed was that my sterile white gloves were inside the mother’s blood-oozing uterus, and then I was holding the placenta in my palm. I did not know what to say or think, and the first thing I could say was, “It’s so huge!” as the rest of the operating room staff chuckled at my innocent comment. The slippery placenta covered my entire palm and more until I placed it in the dish. I had delivered a placenta by myself and assisted in a cesarean delivery of the baby.
Physicians historically have sacrificed much of their personal lives for their career in service to their patients; this paradigm still applied in this situation, where a medical student helped deliver a happy ending for someone else’s family. With obstetrics and gynecology as a core rotation for medical students, many men and women set aside their relationships (if they are lucky to even maintain one through medical school) and their “happily ever afters.” Women physicians sacrifice their ovaries as a selfless act to bring life to a dozen other families while losing a dozen eggs of their own each year.
The surgeon began suturing the incisions and requested that I assist in the suctioning of the endometrial blood and pulling the retractors back for an open suturing field. As the gynecologist sealed each layer, with my gloves drenched in blood, my mind felt content from my first assist in surgery, stranded on a Caribbean island for an opportunity toward my dreams.
Medical students, physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and other medical team members sacrifice birthdays, holidays, and relationships to give a precious gift to another family, yet many of their own lives remain incomplete. Texts and calls remain unanswered from friends who started their own families after college, who once waited for me to have children at the same time as them. My grandparents passed away before any man could ask for my hand, since I was already married to my goals.
Watching the mother, only a few years younger than me, hold her newborn was precious. After cleaning up, I drove back to my library cubicle and resumed annotating my First Aid for the USMLE book with UWorld test-prep explanations next to the Pathoma lecture notes until 1 am before heading to my 1-bedroom apartment. I closed my eyes and in the dark quietly thanked my mom, 1000 miles away from me, for all of her sacrifices, just a few weeks after Mother’s Day. She gave up her career for her ovaries, and I gave up my ovaries for my career to deliver the egg that became my patient’s daughter.
Manpreet Kaur, CPhT, NREMT, is a second-year medical student at the Medical University of the Americas in Charlestown, Nevis, Saint Kitts and Nevis.