by Sr. Margaret Anne Meyer MMM U.S.A. 20.01.2024
Reviewing my last blog on my third year medical at university I somehow omitted two rotations that were especially important in my training. When I try to recall the actual times they happened, after sixty years, my mind is a little blurred, but the actual facts are as clear as day.
I was assigned to Professor Paddy Fitzgerald. professor of Surgery, with three other students. Perhaps since I lived closest to his residence, he used to call for me on his way to the hospital where he would perform surgeries. I was delighted to be able to assist him and felt very honored to do so. I remember going to Cappagh Hospital where he performed orthopedic operations on children. I thought it was a marvelous work of sculpture to get the good parts of the bones aligned and perform an arthrodesis so that the children could walk again. We also assisted sometimes in the surgery he undertook in St. Vincent’s Hospital.
One case in particular stands out. It was a patient who had a repair graft done to her aorta by a renowned visiting surgeon. He said,” My grafts never clot” but eventually it did. Professor Fitzgerald and his team planned to tackle the challenge, even if the entire process took eight hours. Somewhere in between, I almost got a fit of giggles because I was way down the line holding a retractor and Professor told his registrar, “Steady Eddie, Steady Eddie”. I could see nothing, but Eddie was steady because the operation was an enormous success. Some years ago, I retold the story to a vascular nurse working in Chicago and she told me this type of operation can be done in 10 minutes these days. May God bless medical science and innovative ways!
Our daily routine during this time was to be in the hospital with our consultant, at out-patient clinics, ward rounds, or operations. We were getting firsthand learning then as well as lectures in Medical School in the afternoons. The registrar would give us tutorials after our college lectures at 5PM. We would cycle back to Rosemount and be in time for supper at 7 PM. I loved every minute of it.
One Saturday afternoon, I was assisting Professor Fitzgerald at an operation, and he asked me if I could stay on for another one. I told him I was sorry to say no, but I had to get back to Rosemount to finish knitting my pram cover for the Sale of Work. These Sales of Work were a huge undertaking in the Mansion House in Dublin. So many people came, and the students volunteered to help to wait on tables and prepare food. It was truly a great feeling of doing something to help the Sisters and people on the Missions. I remember one afternoon in particular that one of the Sisters warned us, “Sisters ‘don’t eat those sausages!” She did not say why, but when we arrived, starving with hunger after a full day’s schedule, we looked at the sausages and got a very pleasant surprise. They were not sausages at all, but German frankfurters which Americans call “hot dogs”. Martha and I were in for a treat because we had not tasted one for four years and they were delicious.
The next rotation was with Professor D.K. O’Donovan, Professor of Medicine. He was a very formidable man but an excellent physician. I asked to be his student because I wanted to get to know him and not be afraid of him if he examined me for my final medical exam. I enjoyed his clinics and we also attended sessions of his preparing final medical students on how to take a history and examine a patient. No stone was left unturned, and he exacted extremely lofty standards. My turn came up one day to present a case and my patient was the first woman in Dublin to receive an injection of insulin many years ago. She was in the Maternity Hospital at the time and insulin saved her and her baby’s life. I took an excellent history and how the state of her diabetes was now but when I went to do the examination of her central nervous system, I was not so exact. I learned it very rapidly from then on as Professor DK, as we called him, spoke plainly with me. I benefited a lot from my time with him. Of the twelve doctors who were in line to examine me for my final med exam, he was not one of the eight who eventually did. By that time, I was no longer afraid and trusted in God to help me through. And that is another story…