Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Friday, March 24, 2006

Instead Of TV

When I was a kid in Burundi, we didn't have a television or phone. About the most advanced piece of technology in our house was a shortwave radio--on which my folks listened to news and received word of missionaries or nationals needing medical attention. My father worked as a doctor at the Murore hospital, and since medical facilities were far and few between, people from hundreds of kilometers around came to Murore for surgery, lab work, and any necessary care.

After mom finished a morning of homeschool with me, I often ran down the path to the brick hospital, greeting dispensers and nurses, weaving through lines of brightly-clothed mothers with toddlers and babies waiting for immunizations. If dad was in surgery, I scrubbed up, put on sterile coveralls and face mask, and entered the operating room to watch the latest childbirth, skin graft, or hernia repair taking place. Much more entertaining than television! There was a wooden crate which I'd drag over to the operating table, turn over, and stand on--that way I could see better. It never occurred to me to be squeamish. Dad kept my interest by describing "now we're cutting through the fatty layer of skin" or "to sew her up, I'm going to use a special suture..." and it looked like the human anatomy pages in Worldbook Encyclopedia, come alive.

Looking back, I realize the unusual privilege of being able to observe how each person is "fearfully and wonderfully made," of seeing patients in life and death situations, and watching a team work together to repair wounds and bodily pains. At the time, it just seemed normal. Maybe that's why in college, I started out pre-med, although after the first year I switched majors. I wanted to recapture some magic from my childhood...and, truth be told, I just need to close my eyes, and I'm in the O.R. again, hearing the anesthesiologist calling out the level of sedation, watching the young man's chest under the green drapes, rising and falling, rising and falling in rhythm, as steel scalpel and gloved hands flash before me in a steady pattern.


Betsy said...

Wow! Great post! And fascinating that you were privy to the real, gritty world of medicine and not raised on a diet of ER televised fluff...

When I was a kid I wasn't allowed to watch TV unless I was at Grandma's. She was hooked on this show called "Emergency" with Eric Estrada or some other hearththrob. My mom was always less than thrilled when I'd come home and have nightmares.

Perhaps I would have fared better if I'd been exposed to a real medical sitation rather than the somewhat disjointed fantasy one. (and if the doctors didn't have so many cheesy shirtless moments. ;-) )

don't eat alone said...


I remember life without TV and the year TV came to Zambia -- two or three hours a night: news and Lucy reruns. Just what Zambia needed!

I also remember reading, playing a lot of board games, and making stuff up.

Hey! I still do those things.