First Assist

By Sarah Renna


It's Saturday morning. I am at the start of a 24 hour shift. I sit across from the plastic surgeon as his first assist. He is repairing some tendons and everything is going well. I start to feel hungry. There is no time for hunger. I am first assist. The feeling slowly subsides but is replaced with a strange feeling of weakness. Oh no, I think.

"So, what are you interested in doing?" asks the surgeon.

"Surgery," I reply with enthusiasm.

Just breathe. I am not dizzy. I am NOT dizzy. Fight this strange feeling. This is not the time to be dizzy. The surgeon is finally talking to me. Why am I dizzy? I am sitting, there is no blood, the surgeon is closing up. This makes no sense. Okay, I haven't eaten in 6 hours. But NO, I must not let this feeling win. I squeeze my leg muscles. I cut a suture.

It's getting hot in here. I look around the room. Nobody else seems to be affected by this sudden rise in temperature. Is it just me? I assess my surroundings.


I have the patient to my right, the surgical field to my front, and the sterile equipment to my left.

Focus, breathe.

If I faint, I will contaminate everything. My breathing rate has quickened.


Finally, the feeling is too strong.

"Doctor, I'm sorry. I am feeling a little funny."

The words cannot be taken back now.

The nurse scurries over to me. To her, I am a ticking time bomb. She takes off my gown and mask. A rush of cold air hits my lungs.

Glorious, wonderful air.




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