It wasn't the first time that he had entered the operating room, as he had been introduced to it with their exposure. Because he had not yet rotated into surgery, however, it was going to be the first time he was going to stay there for quite some time. He had heard from a friend of his that the work was going to be tiring, but nevertheless enjoyable because of the kindness of the residents.
A round man greeted him. At the back of his mind, the entrant thought that the man clearly enjoyed his food and drink, but said nothing. His scrub suit was tagged with 'anesthesiology,' so the entrant immediately presumed that the man facing him was going to be his resident. A senior intern told him to be wary of a certain Miguel, however. Atop the word anesthesiology was the name, Dr. Miguel Tesoro. Instead of being scared, however, the entrant felt an aura of welcome from the fellow. To him, it was reminiscent of Santa Claus – especially because Miguel's belly had marked resemblance. Unlike the hale Santa, however, Miguel had deep indurations beneath his eyes. Clearly, he had no sleep.
'It's your first day here, huh?' Miguel asked the entrant.
'Yes, doc. Good morning,' the entrant replied.
'Don't think of anesthesia as something as tiring as this. It was just a particularly toxic duty, but I'll tell you firsthand that it is a tiring rotation. Sometimes, you'll end up with no sleep, just as we will end up with no sleep. You just can't let emergency operations wait, after all. Eventually, you'll see the importance of what we do here. Don't worry about your first operation or its paperwork: I'll take care of it, and then I'll teach you later, okay?'
'So your name is Mikhail,' Miguel told the new entrant. 'It's quite similar to my name, isn't it?'
'Just in a different language, doc,' Mikhail replied.
'Is there anyone in your family who is Russian or has Russian blood? You look like you could pass as one, so I'm just curious.'
'No, doc. My parents just chose it because it sounded manly and cool.'
'Oh, I see. Did that help your growth?'
'It probably gave me bad luck.'
The two laughed in chorus.
The senior intern seemed to be mistaken, Mikhail thought. As the operation commenced Mikhail followed his resident into an operating theatre and saw him do what was necessary without even asking Mikhail to do anything. When something went wrong Miguel would drag his body and curse under his breath, but never said anything untoward toward Mikhail. Over the next couple of days they were together, the resident only told Mikhail whenever he did something wrong, but never berated him directly. When there was a lengthy operation later that morning, he brought a granola bar into the operating room and broke it in two, sharing half of it to Mikhail as he raised his finger to the mouth. They quietly ate as the operation continued. After they had eaten, Mikhail had enough resolve and confidence to ask about Miguel.
'So, doc,' he started, 'they said that you entered residency a bit later than most of your peers. Can I ask what happened?'
'I drifted for quite a bit before I entered medical school. When I finished my senior internship, I sought to rebuild our ancestral house that was falling apart at its seams. To do that, I had to focus and manage everything well, so I stopped for a while. As the rest of my siblings emigrated to the States, I was left with that responsibility and I didn't want to proceed with medicine knowing that I haven't even done what I needed to do for us.'
'How old are you now, Doc?'
'I'm 35,' Miguel answered. '35 years of bullshit, but also fun.'
'Why did your house repair take that long? I mean, repairing a house takes one or two years at most.'
'That wasn't all I had to take care of. I also had to deal with legal battles my family was involved with, and that delayed me even further. I didn't mind as I had no rush to specialize and my primary goal was to fix our house.'
'Was anesthesia ever your first choice?' Mikhail continued his barrage. Miguel didn't mind as the patient had been stable for thirty minutes, which prognosticated well.
'I had been in Radiology back then. I had nearly completed my first year when I had to face those legal battles of ours. Because it took me so long to finally get rid of it, I simply decided to stop. That was only when I decided to take up anesthesiology.'
'I'm a bit jealous, because you're much nearer to your goal than I am.'
'Just roll with the blows. But I think that nurses end up happier than people in our field, especially in the long run.'
'I actually think so too, doc,' Mikhail agreed. 'Even at this point I find little joy in the work that we do.'
'How is that?'
'I don't even know whether I'll be going into residency. I know that I want to be a doctor, but my passion lies in either chemistry or physics.'
'So you don't like medicine?'
'I was rather coerced into it, but I'm determined into completing it.'
'But really,' Miguel replied, 'I asked all of the successful doctors I know whether they still have time for their family and most of their answers are resounding "no's." It's so time-consuming and tiring that in helping others they seem to lose their own souls. I think that's sad.'
'I'm sure there are exceptions, but I find that it's a hefty price to pay saving lives.'
'It is. Have you thought of a specialty to pursue yet?'
'All I think about is becoming a doctor first and foremost. But I'll probably look for a residency with a lot of physics in it.'
'Radiology has a good amount of physics, so you may like it there. Before I forget, there was also one thing I haven't told you about. I haven't passed the medical boards the first time I took it. I was a recalcitrant fellow back then, and I was also busy with the house. I make no excuses, though. I failed plain and simple.'
'Closing,' one of the Surgery residents spoke to no one in particular, and that ended their conversation. As before, Miguel did everything with Mikhail only an assistant to him. When Mikhail substituted a friend for another operation hours after their broken dialogue, he heard Miguel say: 'Betamax tapes back then were pretty expensive. Tapes would cost hundreds, but we'd watch them anyway. Were you still able to watch Beta back then, Mik?'
'The Beta tapes we had were a lot fewer than the VHS tapes we had, and I could remember my dad playing Return of the Jedi over and over because he said it was the film I enjoyed. Of course, I don't remember much as I was probably still a toddler back then, but yes, I was still able to watch films in Betamax. You've clearly been around much longer than I was,' Mikhail closed with a smile, and the continued: 'By the way, your scrub suit looks cool.'
'It doubles as a radiation suit.'
'It's a Dickies! That makes it even cooler! Where did you get it from?'
'Of course it came from my family. It's made from Vietnam, which doesn't make it a lot different from the suits here in the Philippines. It's not the brand that's important – it's actually the fact that it is anti-radiation which makes it cool.'
Mikhail observed that it wasn't the only paraphernalia that his resident had. There was also the stethoscope that was electronic, as well as his Nike shoes. He brought the stethoscope out when they were about to remove the tracheal tube after the surgery had been completed.
'That was also given to you, doc?'
'My family loves me very much.'
Mikhail smiled. 'I can relate.'
'I'm often mistaken to be rich because of the stuff that's given to me by my uncles and aunts, when in fact if they didn't help us I'd probably even have difficulty coming out of this medical school.'
'So you're seriously not rich?'
'No, we don't even have a business. My parents are professionals: my dad's a lawyer and my mother's a nurse, and while my parents provide my allowance, a lot of my medical books, equipment, and stuff come from my relatives.'
'How many girlfriends have you had?'
'Why are you asking me that question?'
'You just seem like the type to have gone through a lot.'
'So far, actually, I have had none.'
'None – as in zero? Are you kidding me?'
'No. As it turns out, I don't know how to court women.'
Most of the surgery residents in the room as well as his fellow interns laughed alongside Miguel.
'How do you not know how to court?'
'I don't know. I need practice, I guess?'
The paroxysms of laughter resonated once more throughout the room. Because Mikhail no longer wanted to be laughed at he went back into closely monitoring the patient on the operating table. He did not know that it was going to be the last time he would see his resident. When he mentioned that he no longer saw Miguel around, a senior resident told him that Miguel had already resigned.
'Why did he do that?' he asked her.
'There's been fighting among themselves.'
'Between him and the others?'
'Yes, they have been quite unkind to him. You must have seen him being bullied by the others.'
'I haven't seen him being frankly bullied, but I did see another resident berate him when I didn't even see him do anything wrong.'
'See, they've been unkind to him.'
'All I really know is that he's been a pretty nice guy to me. He gave me food when I was hungry, and taught me quite a bit, also. I don't know why he had to leave.'
Mikhail kept quiet because he knew it was supposed to be within the confines of their department and he was given privilege by a resident who trusted him enough to share issues with him. To his surprise, his fellow interns talked about the incident just a day after.
'Did you know he resigned?'
'Miguel? Yeah, I heard something about that. Good riddance.'
'Do you know why he resigned?'
'Well, he wasn't a very good resident. He was the worst among them. I had no qualms with the rest.'
'I'm glad that pain in the ass was gone. He commanded me to do so much bullshit that he should have done himself.'
'Did you hear about the story that he'd roam around the hospital during his tour of duty? He doesn't do the stuff that he needs to do, and that's why everyone's so angry at him.'
Mikhail sat down and stayed quiet. At that moment, their chief resident walked by and passed with tears in her eyes. She immediately went to one of the junior consultants and burst out. Mikhail could only her bits and pieces of their conversation that was punctuated with angry imprecations blurred with tears.
'What does – expect?' she cried, ' – not completing difficult cases? How can you – consultant with that? You can't – patients and just say – easy cases! These are lives we're dealing with here! – Wish that your – not toxic? What if – really bad – in? What if you don't know what to do?'
The consultant murmured.
'Every chance – every chance – need to know stuff. I'm bad? Now I'm the bad one? How can I – myself? He's running away again. That's my fault? That's my fault?'
Mikhail also knew that their chief resident was no slouch. At times, she would stay up until seven in the morning, working alone, without sleep until the last of the patients had been dealt with. She'd been snarky at times, certainly, but she was always helpful and ever-responsible. After she had gone away, he took out his cellphone and sent a thank-you message to Miguel, because he was grateful of all the help and knowledge he shared toward him.
'I wish he'd have left his electronic stethoscope to me, though,' Mikhail whispered quietly.