There are a lot of things in life that everyone enjoys. For instance, taking a nice vacation someplace warm. Having a delicious meal. A fun night out on the town.
But there are a few very simple pleasures, primal pleasures if you will, that we sometimes forget about. Fortunately, my medical training allowed me to be reminded of many of these simple pleasures. I have highlighted five of them below:
When I was rotating through surgery as a third year medical student, I would intentionally deprive myself of all food and water prior to my first surgery at 7AM (I was in the hospital since 5AM), because I was absolutely terrified of having to pee during the surgery. The nurses and surgeons were more terrified of my having to faint, so they would always ask me if I ate something, and I'd always lie and say, "Of course!"
My clever trick worked in that I usually didn't have to pee too badly during the surgery, but I would get SO thirsty in the morning. If I was really desperate, I would take a mouthful of water and just let it sit in my mouth for a few seconds before spitting it out. Or maybe, if I was feeling really gluttonous, I'd just let a single drop of water go down my throat.
Then after that first surgery was over, I would go to the lounge and drink half a Styrofoam cup of water (not a whole cup, since I had another surgery coming up). Ah heaven.
2. Sitting down
An upperclassman once said to me at the beginning of third year of med school, "One of the hardest things about being a third year is learning to stand all the time." It totally is! I started my third year with the cushy psych rotation. Unfortunately, when you START with psych, it doesn't seem quite as cushy. 8AM is great if you just finished getting up at 4AM for surgery, but not as good when you're coming off a vacation.
Anyway, our psych rounds would last about three hours every morning and we would be standing the entire time. My feet and ankles would be on fire. But it was a big no-no to sit down during walking rounds, so I would try to "sneak in a sit". Like if there was a sink in a patient's room, I'd surreptitiously rest my butt on the edge to allow the pressure off my feet for just a few minutes. Ah heaven. And then when rounds ended and I could sit for real, it was like my feet were being licked by kittens (I'd imagine).
Of course, I didn't know what I was in for back in psych. Three hours rounds? Try seven hours holding a retractor and suctioning.
3. Post-call sleep
After 30+ hours awake, there is nothing more wonderful than turning your pager off (or flushing it down the toilet), pulling the shades, and snuggling into the blankets for a nice nap. Even though you know you're going to feel crappy and disoriented when you wake up.
4. Being able to scratch your face
There are a lot of things we take for granted when we're not sterile and one of those things is being able to touch/scratch your face (or body). Maybe real surgeons are so focused on the awesome task at hand that they aren't as bothered by random itches, but when you're holding a camera in one spot for hours, intermittently being yelled at by the surgeon who says you're going to make him vomit, things start to itch. Especially when you're wearing an uncomfortable mask and cap. The second those gloves came off, I really went to town--rubbing my nose, scratching my neck, etc. Ah heaven.
Maybe it's not a primal pleasure, but there are very few things as satisfying as sticking a scalpel blade into a huge abscess and watching the pus pour out. The patients usually like it too. Therefore, fluctuant is one of my favorite words. Fluctuant.