Observers in a sanctioned overhead viewing site
advancing their surgical acumen. Serendipitous
snoopers were another story.
Surgical spectators were all different and the most interesting involved the serendipitous observer who happened to be in the
The operating rooms where I toiled were on the very top floor of the hospital and offered a beautiful view of Lake Michigan which was 8 blocks due East. Large picture windows offered surgeons and nurses the opportunity to feast their weary eyeballs on a tranquil visual treat of sailboats and sparkling blue water far off in the distance. A welcome reprieve from eyeball stinging Bovie smoke and squnting to thread fine needles with 8-0 white silk while a surgeon hollered at you in the background for being too slow for his speedy needle plunges.
Everything was fine and dandy until the esteemed members of the hospital board decided to erect a high rise employee housing palace next to the hospital. Nurses were agitated because these were luxury apartments and unaffordable for all but the most privleged office sitters. We were stuck in our 3rd floor walk ups where heat was a rarity even on the coldest winter nights.
Various members of Chicago's building trades toiled on the construction crews erecting this palace for the medical center moguls. They were a cast of colorful characters to say the least. Ironworkers in particular were a flamboyant, in your face sort of personality. I think it had something to do with their performing hazardous work at elevations where one false move meant falling many stories to a colorful death.
As the building began to rise, we eagerly watched the progress while standing at the scrub sink which was probably less than 50 feet away from the ascending steel I-beams. You could hear the ironworkers incessant babble before you could see them. We joked with the surgeons that the ironworkers must be afficionados of expensive German automobiles just like them because they bantered constantly about "beamers" while guiding the gigantic steel beams into place.
The merriment came to an abrupt halt when the ironworkers ascended to the level of the operating room windows. This rag tag bunch of haggard workers acted as though they found a visual paradise. They glared and made contorted expressions as they avidly observed the goings on in the operating rooms. If they found the proceedings in one room not to their liking a short stroll along the steel beam provided a different procedure to observe. Legitimate surgical observers were limited to viewing the proceedings in just one room while the ironworkers enjoyed a virtual cafeteria of surgical sightseeing.
Their ringleader with his distinctive orange striped hardhat led his merry men along a steel beam parallel to the OR windows until they found a procedure to their liking. The cysto room was the least popular after a worker nearly stumbled off a beam while observing a meatotomy. That procedure shivered my timbers too, so I could empathize with their revulsion.
The most popular room for these happenstance journeymen observers was the orthopedic room. A hammer is a hammer whether the one doing the hammering is a surgeon or an ironworker. The orthopedic surgeons were kept busy reducing and stabilizing bones just as the tradesmen were with steel beams. Both used lag screws and plates in their work. A brotherhood of sorts was established.
The surgeons took little notice of these nosey nitwits, but nurses thought the activities bordered on voyeurism and should be halted. Plan "A" was to scare them off. Sponge racks were crude, nasty looking devices ostensibly designed to facilitate counts, but really served to provide the surgeon of a visual reminder of blood loss. These morbid contraptions were wheeled, so positioning loaded sponge racks dripping with blood in front of the windows worked to frighten off the men of steel. Some nurses took to displaying suction bottles full of blood on the window sills, but gradually the men of steel acclimated to our repulsive displays.
Alice, our beloved supervisor came up with the ultimate solution to the problem. Being an ultimate Killjoy, she used autoclave tape to suspend surgical drapes over the windows. some problems work themselves out with benign neglect. The observation opportunity ended with our move to the new operating rooms in the Stone Pavilion. Windowless operating rooms were very popular in the mid 1970s and put an abrupt halt to all the fun.