Hospital Cuts Out Some Of Operating Room's Mystique County General Operation, Open House Offer Insights

October 28, 1990|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER -- Some people get nervous leaving their cars with new mechanics.

But perhaps the ultimate act of faith is to give up all control of your body to strangers, before losing consciousness.

Every weekday, about 30 people -- anesthetized and cut open -- trust a team of physicians and nurses at Carroll County General Hospital to care for them while in this vulnerable state.

FOR THE RECORD - WESTMINSTER - The woman in the operating room photo on Page 18 in sunday's Carroll County Sun was registered nurse Cheryl Humbert of Westminster.

The alternative, for George Siegman, would have been to lose the vision in his right eye to a cataract. The choice was not a difficult one, he said.

"I had confidence. I like Dr. (Martin) Weintraub. I knew he would take care of it properly," Siegman says as he lay in the recovery room minutes after a successful surgery.

Siegman, 68, the retired owner of an auto-repair garage, had the clouded lens of his eye removed and replaced with a plastic implant the size of a contact lens.

"I'll be very happy to be able to see well again," he says.

To give the public a wide-awake look at what surgery is like, CCGH is having an open house Nov. 11 in honor of national Operating Room Nurse Week. Construction prevents the hospital from letting people into the operating area, but a mock-up in the lobby will include a table, instruments, microscopes and machines used for anesthesia and arthroscopy (looking inside joints).

Operating rooms have a certain mystique to lay people, possibly because of the work that goes on there or because they usually see the rooms only under heavy sedation.

On the day of his surgery, Oct. 15, Siegman arrives at the hospital just before 6 a.m. As ordered, he has neither eaten nor drunk since the night before to reduce the chance he might choke on his own vomit. He will be on his way home seven hours later to relax for the rest of the week.

Ambulatory, or outpatient, surgery patients don't spend the night in the hospital unless they develop complications. Of the 27 surgeries done at the hospital this day, 24 are outpatient, says Joan Spear, director of peri-operative services at CCGH.

Before surgery, nurses give Siegman drops and treatments to prepare his eye for surgery. Meanwhile, ophthalmologists Weintraub and associate Dr. Andrew Kessler, nurse Cheryl Humbert and technician Patricia Busic prepare in one of the hospital's six operating rooms.

Three hallways and sets of double doors separate the first-floor surgical suite from the main corridor used by visitors. The first room is a small lounge, opening into the locker rooms, where staff and doctors don blue or green tunics and pants as well as masks and elasticized, disposable paper caps on their heads and shoes.

A "Far Side" cartoon posted on the door of the women's locker room shows an operation and an object flying out of the patient with a "boing."

The caption reads, "Whoa -- watch where that thing lands -- we'll probably need it."

The door opens on the main artery of the suite: a long room with several sinks for scrubbing and windows looking into each operating room.

Inside the operating room, the instruments Weintraub will use are still wrapped in sterile sheets to be unfolded later. The cream-colored walls are bare, for easy cleaning. The dark, speckled tile floor is pristine.

The room is brightly lighted during preparation, but for cataract surgery, Weintraub will operate with a lighted microscope, and the other lights will be turned off to reduce glare. Next to the table, a column of ma chines topped by a screen will display Siegman's vital signs during surgery.

The room has a familiar look -- just like operating rooms on television.

Nurse-anesthetist Abraham Lachman readies instruments and medications. An anesthesiologist is in the hospital but is not needed at every operation, Lachman says.

At about 7:35 a.m., Siegman rolls into the operating room on a gurney. Weintraub makes a point of touching Siegman's head as he says hello.

"This is Dr. Weintraub," he tells Siegman.

"They're lying upside down, and we all look the same. There's no one in this whole process they've seen before, except me," Weintraub says later. "It's very important to keep touching the patient. They feel very isolated."

Sterile sheets cover Siegman, who wears a heart monitor attached to his back, a blood pressure cuff on his upper arm, an intravenous tube in his hand to administer sedatives and an instrument called a pulse oximeter clipped to his forefinger to measure oxygen in his blood.

"Are you comfortable?" Weintraub asks Siegman.

"OK, yeah," his patient replies.

"I didn't know they hooked so many things up to you," Siegman says later with more surprise than irritation.

Ten years ago, cataract surgery was done under general anesthesia and required an overnight stay, Weintraub says. Now, he uses a local anesthetic that numbs only the right side of Siegman's head.

The sedative will keep the patient drifting in and out of sleep throughout the operation -- just enough to keep him from moving but not so much that he starts to have trouble breathing or gets confused and anxious, Lachman says.

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