ST. LOUIS, MO – Hepatobiliary surgeon Dr. Jeanne Devereux was disappointed. “How hard could it be?!” she fumed. “Just hold the damn retractor and get me some decent exposure. A kindergartner could do it!”
However, kindergartner Ava Devereux, in fact, could not do it. As the 7-hour right hepatectomy wore on, she found retracting the 4-kg liver to be cumbersome, and the need to urinate to be overwhelming.
Dr. Devereux understood. “Hey, we’ve all been there. Paying your dues, am I right? I thought I’d give her a reward at the end and let her cut the sutures. I even autoclaved a pair of safety scissors just for her. But she was an utter let-down: either the tails were way too long at 0.33 cm or were ludicrously short at 0.28 cm. She could just never get it right.”
In fact, most of the staff at Banner Health were similarly underwhelmed by the hospital’s first “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”
Forensic pathologist Dr. Brantley Beckford brought along his 8-year old, Brianna, to the autopsy suite, thinking surely a day eviscerating the bodies of the city’s most recent victims of gun violence would stimulate her interest in the natural world.
“To be honest, she watched the first one with a rather blank look from across the room. See one, do one, teach one, that’s how I was trained. So I told her to pony up for the next case – even let her man the bone saw – but she wasn’t keen on cracking the chest plate and was totally uninterested when I opened the stomach to show her the decedent’s last meal. I had to get on with my work so just kind of left her alone after that. I found her later curled up fetally in the corner, making repetitive mechanical sawing motions on her Barbie, talking in this high-pitched sing-songy voice.”
The housestaff got more into the spirit of things. Surgical intern Nikhil Das let his daughter answer each of the 32 pages for docusate that were received between 3:20 and 4:13 AM. Neurology resident Amelia Tang handed over her mysterious black bag of tuning forks, weird distorted clock faces, and banging sticks to her toddler, who reportedly promptly diagnosed all of the ward nurses with conductive hearing loss. Infectious disease fellow Jason Podolsky tried to get his daughter to write one of his 15 consult notes of the evening, “but unfortunately it was about 4000 words too short,” he said.
And pediatric palliative care nurse practitioner Bob de los Santos had a more optimistic perspective. “I took my 6-year old, Annabelle, on our hospice rounds. There were numerous patients wracked with pain, wrestling with the end stages of terminal diagnoses; some had intractable seizures, others were cachectic from metastatic cancer. I really think she has a knack for this work. She asked some great questions. You know, kid stuff, like ‘Why is there death and suffering?’ or ‘What did they do to deserve this?’ and ‘Is there a soul?'”
“I think ‘Take Your Daughter to Work’ Day sends a great message: study hard, deny gratification for three decades, incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and all this can be yours!”