Usually, I try to be in the operating room as the patient is put to sleep, but sometimes stuff happens and I just can’t. So not too long ago, I barged into the operating room convinced that I was late for an elective inguinal hernia repair… only to come upon a scene that almost defies description.
The patient was already asleep and intubated, but the anaesthetist was hovering over my patient… well on the way to popping a pimple on the patient’s face.
‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?’ (Scalpelista in banshee mode)
The anaesthetist looked up guiltily, bringing to mind the family Labrador after it had licked the Christmas roast.
‘Erm, if you were the patient, wouldn’t you want that taken care of?’ The ‘that’ in question being the pustule and a couple of rather large blackheads on the patient’s face.
I told the anaesthetist with the itchy fingers that the patient never signed consent to have the living daylights squeezed out of his face under anaesthesia. We do what’s on the consent and nothing more. Cue unhappy muttering from beyond the drape- every now and then the anaesthetist would mumble to herself, while staring wistfully at the blemish, now bringing to mind Gollum with his preciousssss. But in the end, my patient had his hernia repair and arrived in the recovery unit with his face unmolested.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want my patient waking up looking like I’d taken a sledgehammer to his face- and I would be the prime suspect, as our colleagues at anaesthesia conveniently wave goodbye to groggy patients from the operating room exit, never to be seen nor heard from again. And suppose this impromptu extraction leaves a scar? And if you want to get all deep and analyze this like in those weird medical ethics courses they made us take back in med school- if we start popping zits under anaesthesia without consent, what other ‘procedures’ will we be performing without consent?
Pimple popping videos have a huge following, you can confirm this with a simple search. I have also worked with many interns who volunteer for the abscess drainage slate, not because they want to gain surgical experience and realize that as interns they have to start at the bottom and do some simple procedures that they consider to be ‘beneath them’, but because they derive intense erm… satisfaction from draining these super-charged zits. (By the way, this is me rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically- I used ‘intern’ and the concept of volunteering for work in the same sentence!!!) I specifically recall a dainty blonde intern with high heels and even higher hair explaining to me how much she loves it when the pus comes a-gushing out of an abscess… what can I say, weekend surgical calls be cray cray.
I decided to look into the psychology behind this fascination with extracting other people’s pus. Explanations range from it supplying a rush similar to riding a rollercoaster to being akin to the grooming behaviour observed in primates.
Not sure what that says about my colleague.