Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Blue Finger Bigot

Methylene Blue which was supplied to us in 10cc glass ampules had many uses in the OR. It was used to test for tubal patency by inserting a Foley in the cervix and then injecting it to observe if the blue dye could be visualized. It was used to dye white silk suture and as a general marking agent on tissue.
Dr. Oddo, our internationally famous neurosurgeon who separated the conjoined twins had to have a medicine cup of methylene blue on the Mayo stand at all times. He usually applied it with round (they had to be round) toothpicks.

The circulating nurse was tasked with breaking these big ampules and carefully pouring the dark liquid into a waiting medicine cup. It was almost impossible to break these big ampules and not get a splash or two of the tell tale blue dye on your index finger or thumb. We tried aggressive tapping the ampule to get all of the dye out of the break zone, but nothing seemed to work. We were not permitted to use gloves for anything other than sterile procedures so an occasional blue finger or thumb was inevitable.

When Dr. Oddo noticed the blue stain on our fingers, he would begin his bitter diatribe. "That's disgusting, how clumsy of you." He would scream. He would then begin to gown and glove while muttering, "Deplorable and disgusting." The way he carried on you would think we contaminated the sterile field. He was fairly even tempered and we could never figure out how the blue fingers got him going.

This got to the point where some nurses on purpose accidentally got Methylene Blue on their  fingers just to get the berating over with. On one occasion I had to crawl under the table to tape down the pedal switch for the Mallis bipolar and Nancy, the scrub nurse dripped a big blue dot of the dye on the back of my scrub shirt. Dr. Oddo never said a word so we concluded his anger was blue finger specific.

One day during a Cloward  Procedure, the resident nicked a vertebral artery with an angled curette. Dr. Oddo quickly managed to clip it, but not before being squirted with bright red arterial blood squarely in the forehead. It dripped down and clotted in his bushy eyebrows.

When the dust settled, Nancy and I looked at each other with mock disgust. As soon as Dr. Oddo stomped out of the room we began our tirade, "That was disgusting AND deplorable" Nancy said and I readily concurred.

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