I’m at the VA on my medical school ENT rotation. The senior resident is short with nondescript brown hair, likely near-sighted. I’ve just watched the surgery of a man with an advanced head and neck cancer. They opened him wide, fileted from mouth to pelvis, in the quest to sample lymph nodes and remove metastases.
By the end, countless hours have passed. The staff docs took off. It’s just me, the senior resident, and presumably a scrub nurse and anesthesiologist. Our job is to close the guy. The resident grasps the skin with tissue pickups, “approximating the edges.” I staple. We start low, zippering the patient right up. We’re chatty, almost flirting, stapling up this dude whose prognosis is somewhere south of grim.
Life goes on. At least for some of us.