Carried Away

 mirror with a floral hammered silver frame 

For Cinco de Mayo I am going to tell you a story about my first margarita on the rocks…

In medical school I was assigned to the biggest, baddest, meanest resident in existence for my surgery rotation. He had made grown men cry more than once. 

I knew I was screwed.

The other student assigned to this resident was a fellow classmate who was known for smoking tons of weed. I think he is practicing pain management in Colorado now…

At any rate, as the med students assigned to this rotation we were lackeys, doing scut work that no one else wanted to do themselves.

Do what you are told, don’t draw attention to yourself. Stay out of the way. Learn as much as you can.

As it turned out, it was this resident’s last month at the program. He would be leaving for the biggest, baddest trauma surgery program in the country. The perfect match, in my opinion. He had a research project he had to wrap up before he left, however, looking at the use of hyperbaric oxygen in traumatic brain injury. 

You cannot go around bonking people on the head and then dissecting their brains in the name of science, so he was doing the research on rats. He had made a “machine” with a hammer that was supposed to generate a consistent amount of force when it whacked the rats in the head. No matter how many variables you try to control, closed head injuries are still variable. Highly variable. So you have to have a sufficient number of victims to account for that variability.

We spent the month scrubbing in on surgeries and getting yelled at by this guy, but he also made it clear that we had to help him with the rat project. So we anesthetized dozens of rats, bonked them on the head with the hammer machine, treated them with hyperbarics, then euthanized them and harvested their brains. 

I hated every single last minute of it. If there is a hell and I end up there, I imagine there will be an army of rats waiting to eat my face off.

On the last day of the rotation, as I cut out the last brain of the last rat, this scary as hell resident congratulated us on surviving and told us we were the best students he had ever taught. He wanted to take us out for a drink.

So he did.

Now, I had never really been an alcohol drinker. In fact, I had to that point in my life only ever had a single frozen margarita. It had tasted good. When I was asked what I wanted to drink, I picked a margarita thinking I would get one of those nice, delicious, fluffy frozen ones.

“Do you want that on the rocks?”

I did not know what the hell that meant. So I said yes. 

“Give her extra tequila,” my pot smoking friend said. The waiter laughed. My friend laughed. The surgery resident from hell laughed.

That was about 7PM.

By 7:30PM, when I stood to walk out, the world was listing to the left.


103 thoughts on “Carried Away

  1. i’m sorry you had to torture rats in the name of science. Hopefully something wonderful came of that. I’da had to drink to get through it, so you know, good for you — the world should tequila-tilt now and again, and definitely while hammering rat brains. :/

    Liked by 4 people

    • The mirror has its own story and to be honest, THAT was what I was going to write about. Then I read a post on margaritas and decided that was way more interesting! I remember mirrors similar to yours at the mercado where I picked up mine but they had floral and cactus tiles.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Poor rats. Poor medical students. I would have needed more than one drink, had I even gotten through the rat-hammering. After all of that, did the “research” bring forth any new insights into treatment of head injuries?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In one of my former biotech jobs, I had to give rats strokes, and then treat them with an experimental drug. The drug actually decreased infarct size and improved behavior on tests, but it failed to make it into the clinic for other reasons. The surgery to give the rats strokes was quite fascinating in a way, but I also hated those experiments overall, and my next job was away from lab bench, at a computer. I’ve never gone back to bench research.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve heard that Margaritas are dynamite.
    Actually that was a very interesting experiment with the rats that you were working on. So the hyperbaric was the treatment. Did you find out what the results were?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Poor rats. Sigh. I’m not overly enamored of rats but I hate taking life – even though I know that it is necessary to develop the medicines and techniques that we depend on for our own well being. I would find that job hard to do, even though I could justify it. I have made friends with rats before and I’m afraid I’d do it automatically. . Anyway, funny story about the tequila – the trucking community was all about beer,whiskey and rum – I didn’t even taste tequila until I was over 40,so you’re one up on me. I am impressed that you got such a pat on the back from such a hardass. I’ve had that happen once or twice in my life and it feels fabulous. Way more fabulous than it should, but I will take it any way I can get it.Ha! I had a third year physical chemistry course that was a horror show. I typically had A’s and I was struggling to pass this course – and I was in the top 10% of the class. There was a second class for the same course and it was given by the director of chemistry. His students were all above 80% with little effort. The final exam could be worth 50% of final mark or 100% depending on the individual’s assignment marks through the course. And it was a common exam for both groups. And our prof wrote it because the director was too busy. After the dust settled he insisted he wrote an easy exam and all our class did well -every single one of the other class failed,some so miserably their marks were in the teens. This necessitated grading on a curve and my already good mark soared to near perfect. Even though he had tortured us (I spent hundreds of hours just doing his problem sets for practice) in the end our prof also said he was proud of us and we were one of his best classes.

    Fun post Victo, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A BIG reason why I could never become a Doctor….or clinician or anything that harms any animal. For heavens sake I carry spiders out of my house.
    I don’t do tequila any more either.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. My son has a Ph.D in neuroanatomy so, of course, he had to harvest their brains like you did. Once when he was getting his hair cut, the woman hair stylist asked him what he did for a living. He told her he was neuroscience researcher. She recoiled and said, “You don’t experiment on animals, do you??!” He replied, “Only on rats.” She stopped and thought a second and then smiled sweetly, saying, “Oh…okay!” Somehow rats don’t seem to rank quite as lovable with most people as as, say, a puppy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I abhor needless experimentation but it many situations it is unavoidable. It is vain of us to think of ourselves as superior to every other living thing on the planet, but where would we be without animal experiments?
    As for margaritas, I’ve never had one. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I had a professor like that in grad school – they can be great teachers, but the bullying can be overwhelming. I wonder who approved that research project – I wouldn’t have. What the heck did he do for controls?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post. I can’t think of anything so disgusting as killing those rats which by the way are pretty damn smart and make great pets. I don’t drink either and I would have been on the floor had I been in your shoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We have a volunteer at work that had a TBI about 20 years ago and the dr. used hyperbaric treatment. The volunteer showed us the book the dr wrote and he even had his own chapter. Using the rats had to have sucked. ๐Ÿ˜•

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m sorry you had to do that to the poor rats, but since you hated it and you were just a student, then you would not go to hell. Just a short visit in purgatory would my guess, where rats would not eat your face off, but they might dance on your toes. The biggest, baddest, meanest resident, on the other hand, may have his head repeatedly hammered.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Have I told you that I love the way you write? You suck (hammer) us readers in immediately, and keep us enthralled (entrailed?) to the end of the story.
    That said, I wish the rats had been offered a last margarita before their demise. A gruesome story, indeed. But, THANK YOU for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. When I was doing my MSc I was supposed to kill lab mice by holding a ruler on their neck and then giving their tail a sharp tug. I completely balked. I could not do it. Fortunately, a kindly post-doc came to my rescue, if not that of the poor mice. Science is for the cold of heart. I got out.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great story, well told. It makes perfect sense that the creepiest resident creates a gizmo to bonk rats on the heads, so cruel. That’s a tough part of the story. But your words and the storytelling are really funny, and a perfect Cinco de Mayo story.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. When I visited Oregon last month, my BIL was wrapping up a four-week urology rotation. He’d worked closely with a urologist and had been so, so excited for it, but it ended up being a nightmare … for one, they’d been accustomed to working with fourth year students, not second year, and he got hear about it multiple times every day. He was super excited to begin a geriatrics rotation right after, and so far, he’s loving it to pieces. I hope he gets more of that and less of (the work) this in his upcoming rotations. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I enjoyed this interesting memoir, Victo. Your resident mentor’s style raises a question in my mind. Beyond the basic technical aspect of it, do you think the practice of medicine can be taught as an art? And, more to the point perhaps, do medical schools attempt to do that? Just wondering. The service academies attempt to teach “leadership” and in my opinion it’s largely a waste of time. Either you’ve got it or you don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think medical schools and residencies like to congratulate themselves for teaching it as an art, but I believe that while you can teach the medicine (the clinical knowledge is critical) the art you cannot.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. “You cannot go around bonking people on the head and then dissecting their brains in the name of science” — NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU MAY WANT TO OR HOW MUCH THEY MAY DESERVE IT.


    Yeah yeah, I know. You are not the first person to remind me of this unfortunate fact…


    Liked by 1 person

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