"You're going to save my life, Doctor Bastard. I know you are. I'm in your hands, Doctor Bastard. You aren't going to let anything bad happen to me. Isn't that right Doctor Bastard?"
It was more than just a bit unnerving.
When I opened up his belly I found it full of blood, as expected. I poked the intestine that had been protruding back inside and then examined everything. I addition to about 2 liters of blood and the two holes in the small intestine I already knew about, I found a separate 25-cm portion of small intestine that had been essentially shredded. Think 1990's torn jeans. Yeah, kind of like that.
Unbelievably none of the other organs had been injured. The stomach, gall bladder, liver, colon, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys were all completely fine. I repaired several holes that were amenable to being fixed and removed several that were not. After re-establishing gut continuity, I sort of felt like all the king's horses and all the king's men.
Humpty Dumpty was back together again.
The following morning before I left the hospital, I went to see Mikel first. I was expecting to find him fast asleep, or at least lethargic as hell, considering the trauma his physiology had endured over the previous 8 hours. Nope. This is one instance where I was not sorry to be wrong.
"Good morning, Doctor Bastard!" he greeted me with a wan smile and a slight wince as he sat up in bed. "You look tired. How was the rest of your night? How are you feeling today?"
Hey, wait. That was supposed to be my question! That was the second time in a row Mikel had surprised me. I smiled and told him it didn't matter how I felt, because I wasn't the one who just had a major surgery 8 hours ago.
"I feel pretty good, Doctor Bastard. Sore, but ok. You saved my life! I can't thank you enough, Doctor Bastard. Thank you so much!"
Mikel's hospital course was amazingly fast and shockingly free of complications. Despite the number of repairs I did and anastomoses I created, none of them leaked. And every day when I went in to see him, Mikel greeted me with the same big smile and the same "Good morning, Doctor Bastard! How are you today?" Four days after his surgery, he walked out of the hospital.
And two weeks later he walked into my office with the same big smile and the same "Good morning, Doctor Bastard!" once again. He was doing well, his incision had healed perfectly (if I do say so myself), and his intestines were all working just fine despite their recent slight reworking. He gave me a hearty, firm handshake and several more "Thank you"s on his way out.
After he left my office, I had a few minutes to contemplate. Perhaps my other patients would remember my name too and perhaps appreciate what I had done for them. Maybe Mikel was a sign that things were going to change. Huzzah! My mood was bright as I walked in to see my next patient, a guy who had been stabbed in the leg multiple times and on whom I had spent nearly an hour sewing up.
"Good morning," I said brightly. "How is your leg feeling?"
My hopes were dashed and my mood sent crashing back to earth by his response:
"Uh, ok I guess . . . have we met?"
GOD. DAMN. IT.