Carpentry in Spacesuits

This week I’ve been on the orthopedic surgery service as part of my “Musculoskeletal Elective.” Included in this elective are rehabilitation medicine, rheumatology, and orthopedics. I’ve spent much of the week “OR hopping,” as I like to call it, to see the widest variety of cases I can since I’m not going into orthopedic surgery. It’s also a low pressure week seeing as there is no need to impress, just to see as much as I can and learn what I can.

This week, I realized I didn’t know much about orthopedic surgery. Upon entering the OR area, I saw all of the “helmets” wondering what on earth those are for. Naturally, they are for the space suits.

If you wake up during your joint replacement, this is what you will see — surgeons in space suits.

If you’re wondering (although you may have figured it out), the space suits are for maintaining the utmost sterility during the procedure. If the new hardware (knee, hip, etc) gets infected, the only solution is to take it out. No bueno. So, space suits it is!

The helmets have a fan on them so you don’t suffocate during the case. You must also wear a battery pack so the fan doesn’t run out. I sort of felt like a robot with my big space suit and battery pack.

You see the resemblance, right?

Joint replacement is, in my opinion, somewhat like carpentry in that you must saw, drill, chisel, and mallet (seriously) the bone into ideal form to fit the new joint hardware. The bone drill going into the femur with spewing marrow was the first squeamish experience I’ve had in all of med school [but also very cool].

On another note, one attending surgeon in one case noticed my nail polish as he has two daughters of similar age who says “are really into all those funky colors.” See people, nail polish is universal! A common denominator!

Essie, you speak to me. And to the public.

I’m sad to say that I have a race on Saturday and my nails are currently bare. I know, tragic.

Speaking of running, I ran 16 miles the other day with Gia which was a) the longest I’ve run since the marathon last year and b) the quickest 16 miles has ever gone by. You may remember that I ran 15 miles not long ago and it took my something like 2 hrs and 40 min (10:30 pace, I think) because I was by myself and taking my sweet time. This sweet 16 took far less time (pace range 8:50-9:30) and was actually pleasant. Ahh, the power of conversation! I sort of wished for a hot second that I was doing a marathon this fall.

Then I remembered that a marathon is 10 more miles than that and usually alone…

See this is fun. Fun is good. [Bronx 10 miler during 16 mile run]

I believe that a dichotomy currently exists between my training and racing. My training is fantastic, in my opinion. I’ve found that without having this magic “BQ marathon pace” to bow down to in training, I’m having a lot of fun and running a bit faster.

My racing hasn’t been bad, per se, but, in my probably over inflated opinion of my running self, not proportional to improvement in training.

The dichotomy may exists because of two things: 1) heat and humidity in the summer or 2) forgetting the pain game in racing.

It is most likely a mixture of both. I think I’m stuck in some sort of tempo weirdish uncomfortable but not really painful place when racing. I’m usually uncomfortable, but not dying and I think you sort of have to get to that “I don’t think I can run another step but I guess I will” point to really have a breakthrough.

But, honestly, who am I to know. I haven’t been doing this that long.

I’m running a 10K on Saturday. My best races come when I make a goal that is not time related, which usually involves answering the question of “what do I want out of this race.” I realize this is probably a far too cerebral approach to racing, but this is the brain and personality I’ve got, so let’s just go with it.

Completely unrelated, just an entirely too cute picture of good ol’ Clip from a few years ago. Go Vols!

To be honest, I’m not sure what I want. The more important thing on my calendar on Saturday is hitting the “submit” button on my ERAS (residency) application because, of course, we med students are well trained to do everything first day it opens, asap, set 5 alarms to make sure you don’t miss it.

I’d like the PR (<47:39) because that’s always cool, but I’d rather that not be the overall objective or expectation. Remember, expectations are no bueno.

So, I’ve got a bit to mull it over. I’m really just out there to have fun. In a year’s time, I’ll be an intern and working most weekend. I won’t have an opportunity to race frequently like I do now. So, I’m enjoying what I get to do now. But, there’s always that little competitive side to me, too…

Alright, if you’ve made it through this stream of consciousness novel, congratulations! Sometimes I think I should stop writing this blog because at the end I think “why would anyone want to read about my way to overthinking and analytical approach to everything?” The far more practical thing to do would be to keep a journal.

Well, technically, I do have one….

But, that’s just not as fun. Plus, I had to tell everyone I got to wear the space suit! And work with bone cement!


PS: I have a cool story about bronze age jewelry making and bone cement. Maybe I’ll remember to tell it next time…

PS2: Go read this race recap by Jesse as it is pretty awesome…


13 thoughts on “Carpentry in Spacesuits

  1. What area of expertise are you going into in the medical field? I’m running the 4 mile race in CP this weekend, but it’s just part of my long run, which is only 10 miles, wahoo! Thank god for cutback weeks!

  2. No racing for me this weekend!Yea don’t overthink the race! Don’t worry you aren’t along in not having gotten to the about to die feeling in a race. I’d rather just slow down 😛 Good luck!! I want to hear about jewelry making!

  3. I was guessing this is what you were up to when I saw that teaser on twitter. I work for a little startup that is focused on implant registry / outcomes tracking for orthopedics so have spent many hours observing total joint procedures (though not in the space suit!) and have had two major takeaways – 1) thought I’d be squeamish but instead my response was “that is SO cool” and 2) no wonder more women aren’t total joint surgeons – it’s such a physically demanding procedure, I think I’d be exhausted with all of that hammering and such. Good luck in your race!

  4. Good luck at the race!! I wish I could get into the OR to watch some procedures – that stuff is so cool. I did get to see someone’s intestines the other day (and many of his other parts because he was nuts) so that was cool. I’m racing next weekend, which I’m excited about!

  5. FYI all male orthopedic surgeons have great arms. I guess it’s from having to hold up heavy body parts all day? I’m not complaining. (Unfortunately I am not married to a male ortho surgeon, I just work with them, and occaisionally grab their arms as if I have something VERY important to say…is that wrong? I don’t think so)

  6. I just recruited a cardiothoracic surgeon and he invited me into the OR to observe him sometime, but I had to politely decline. I don’t know if I could watch him in action. I also had a plastic surgeon invite me into the OR and I also declined. Maybe someday, just not now. 🙂
    How did the race go???? All of your training sounds like it is going fantastic.
    I am serioulsy loving all of the cool & funky nail polish covers. I just went and got gel tips the other day and I love them. I am thinking about getting pink tips next time and maybe black tips around Halloween time.

  7. Those space suits are awesome. Are you going to wear giant rain boot type things when delivering babies? I’m not sure if they actually do that or if I’m totally making that up…

    We have some pretty fancy outfits for during burn care on some patients…triple gown, please.

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