In Stitches

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

I wasn’t going home with my mom that night. She was waiting outside the clinic to pick me up just like she did every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday night, and I heard my phone buzz with the predictable “I’m here” text. But instead, I told her to head back. I felt bad, but this wasn’t like most nights at the clinic. This night was shaping up to be the greatest night of my life. I was going to be assisting in a stitch-removal procedure.

OK, it sounds pretty lame. But you don’t have the opportunity to get up close and personal with injuries like that as a high school student unless you’re the one with the injury.

As the longest-standing employee at my clinic, Pediatric and Adolescent Care Associates (three years and counting!), I’m trained to do basically everything involved in running a clinic—except, of course, the actual being-a-doctor part (I hear I need a few more years of education for that bit). I suppose I’m a medical assistant-receptionist hybrid. Most of my evenings are spent preparing all the patient materials, taking and answering messages, getting vital signs and medical histories, and taking notes for charts. But because I do so many different tasks, I spend most of my time as a receptionist rather than as an assistant.

But not tonight. Tonight, our last patient had 19 stitches in his finger that needed to be removed. Apparently, he took a machete to his finger instead of a coconut (yikes!). Normally, Dr. Ravi would be able to do this procedure by himself, but a combination of bad lighting and really tight stitches meant that an assistant was required. I was nervous, because I didn’t want to hurt the patient, and I didn’t want to make a mistake and break the doctor’s trust in me. By allowing me, a student, to assist in an actual procedure on a patient, he was placing an incredible amount of faith in me and my abilities, and I was not about to disappoint him. Despite these thoughts, I soldiered on, telling myself that the patient had also severely damaged the nerve in his finger and wouldn’t feel any pain anyway.

My job was to lift each stitch with tweezers while the doctor cut it. I then had to carefully extract the individual stitches from the skin without reopening the wound. It was a long, delicate process. To most people, this would seem like a tedious, boring procedure. And to most doctors, it probably is. But as a regular student, living my regular life, in a regular clinic, with a regular doctor, this silly stitch removal was a chance for me to get a taste of what my future job might look like. I got to actually get up close and personal with the biology I had previously only read about.

I realized that night that you can’t really appreciate the complexity of the human body unless you see it with your own eyes. And once you do see it, and I mean really see it, blue bruises and all, it completely transforms the way you look at yourself. That night, I may have been up until 3 a.m. working on homework (and believe me, this is hard for someone who enjoys a good nap), but it was totally worth it. I got to see the healing process unfold before my eyes, instead of just reading about it in a textbook. There’s a huge difference between reading about how wounds heal and actually physically assisting in the process. Seeing that process unfold before me was absolutely magical; it really reinforced my passion (and total geekiness) for all things medical.

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