Never has a place been so aptly named. Before you arrive, a group of people who work behind the scenes have been cleaning and polishing and moving stuff into position. Sorting out lights, and costumes. Organising the props, so they are ready at the exact moment that they are needed.
Then the actors arrive. They go through their pre-stage routines. Hat on, mask on, water on, scrub, scrub, scrub, dry, gown, glove, then wait as someone scurries behind you to tie your gown, twirl, and onto the stage you step.
There’s an air of hushed reverence. The lights are in place. The instruments sparkling and ready. You introduce yourselves one by one, and the play begins. The surgeon plays the one lead, the anaesthetist the other, the assistant, and the scrub nurse the support, then there’s the chorus of ODPs, theatre assistants, equipment reps. The audience is usually asleep. Totally like the real theatre.
During the play, sets are whisked around you, people step on and off the stage, as their role demand. At the end of the play everyone is thanked, you strip off your costume. The props are returned to be cleaned and restored to their right place. No one throws flowers. Although occasionally a discarded set of knickers can be found.
I know all this because I have spent the last 17 days straight in theatre. Longest run in history. I have seen off four registrars, who have all come, and then had a few days off. I’ve been here and here and here. Women have bled and pushed, babies have come and gone. And still I am here.
It’s September still. Christmas and New Year were 9 months ago. I have sworn that next Christmas and New Year I will pour industrial amounts of the contraceptive pill into the mains water supply. I will surgically attach a condom to every penis I see. Because I am run ragged. Broken. Exhausted. I have lost count of the number of times I have burst into tears on the stairwell. I last had a lunchbreak on Sunday. It is Friday. I’ve been told off for swearing. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I said ‘shit’ when I couldn’t see a patient’s cervix. I want to scream with frustration and tiredness. ‘I AM HUMAN. NOT A ROBOT. CUT ME SOME SLACK. GIVE ME A BREAK.’
I had a nightmare that I used the wrong instrument on a woman’s uterus, and it bled everywhere, and it was all my fault.
Which is why I am awake at 6am, waiting for my alarm to go off, and, after one of the Reg’s said that he wanted to make a theatre CD of operating tunes, I am trying to think of tracks that would fit.
His first suggestion was ‘Smooth Operator’.
So I’m lying here and my overheated brain is spewing forth.
The First Cut Is The Deepest
(for the cardiologists) Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now, Baby
(for the urogynae surgeons, doing a transvaginal tape to treat prolapse): Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water
(for the Scottish surgeons) Mac The Knife
Clearly I need to sleep. In 15 hours I get a weekend off. A WHOLE WEEKEND. Please forgive me if you see me drunk and dribbling in the corner of the pub. Don’t judge me, give me a hug. And maybe another suggestion for the theatre list.