Authors: Pearson A. Scott
Also by A. Scott Pearson
A. SCOTT PEARSON
Copyright © 2011 by A. Scott Pearson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or
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except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations,
places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, businesses, locales, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States of America by Oceanview Publishing,
Longboat Key, Florida
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Title Page, First Edition, Vesalius, Andreas.
De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem
Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1543.
Minutes from completing another successful operation, Dr. Liza French made the final cut. In an operating room designed specifically for her, she’d performed the entire procedure without touching the patient, a distinct advantage, in her mind, for any gynecologist. Surgical gloves weren’t needed because her hands did not touch a drop of blood. Never one to conform, Dr. French wasn’t even wearing shoes. From the start, she had slipped off her sling-back, open-toed, two-inch heels and scooted them aside.
Barefoot in her own operating room, she knew the only way to improve on this procedure would be to perform it from the living room of her Victorian mansion, Rachmaninoff crashing in the background, an iced vanilla latte for the finale.
All in due time
, she thought.
Just finish this case
Five yards of glistening tile floor separated her from her patient. She sat within a stainless steel console in a corner of the operating room and stared at a video screen. Delicate movements of her fingertips were transferred robotically to instruments that her chief resident had inserted an hour earlier through tiny incisions in the patient’s lower abdomen. A single flicker of Dr. French’s thumb generated precise movements on the screen, magnified exponentially. Robotic surgery—a computer-driven, three-dimensional, precision-controlled operation performed from a million-dollar console detached from the patient.
The console was comparable in many ways to a flight simulator for pilots with Dr. Liza French and her team on the final approach. The circulating nurse stationed herself in front of a computer documenting the time of procedure, title of the operation, and personnel involved. By this
point, the patient’s anesthesia was mostly controlled by autopilot and both the anesthesiologist and anesthetist were bored with watching the video screens and listening to the monotonous beep-beep-beep of the monitors.
Liza glanced at the operating table. Her scrub nurse stood with gloved hands folded and resting gently on the drape, a sure sign that things were going well. Just a few more bands of scar tissue and the patient’s diseased uterus would be out. Everyone was relieved.
Liza’s bare feet worked the foot pedals at the base of the robotic console. She liked the feel of her toes on the controls. Skin to metal. She had tried it in stocking feet—high heels definitely didn’t work—but even nylon diminished the sensation of touch.
I don’t like anything between me and what I want to feel
. She smiled devilishly, her face hidden deep in the high-priced instrument.
At the patient’s side, chief resident Thomas Greenway was scrubbed, as was medical student Cate Canavan. Thomas was responsible for maintaining the exact position of the instruments that traversed the patient’s abdomen. The student’s job was to hold the steel camera instrument at the start of the operation while the robotic instruments were inserted through the patient’s abdominal wall and then at the end of the procedure while the instruments were being removed. Cate had been instructed by Dr. French in how to hold the camera steady while it was not secured by the robotic arms. This had been accomplished, and a lens on the tip of the camera transmitted the image of the uterus to the screen.
With the two nurses and two-person anesthesia crew, seven medical personnel occupied Liza’s operating room, a typical number for this type of operation. But this was no typical operating room.
Another nonmedical team milled about carrying shoulder-mounted cameras hooked to portable video screens. As video computer techno-types, the team was somewhat less accustomed to hospital scrubs and the need for a sterile environment. The Internet film company, SurgCast, had dispatched a dozen of its best personnel to film Dr. French and her surgical robot, an operation for which the week’s premier viewing spot was reserved.
Surgical Webcasting. Log on to your computer and watch real operations live from the OR. Cardiac surgery, obesity surgery, even breast augmentation.
Bigger, better, faster.
The ultimate reality show.
Only part of the production centered on viewing an operation. Real-time communication through viewers’ e-mails offered the hot marketing tool. Prospective patients could “call in” their questions, experience an exchange of information, and soon have an appointment with the surgeon on their computer screen for a visit preliminary to their own surgery. For what was basically an hour-long commercial, Gates Memorial Hospital was more than happy to contract with SurgCast.
The patient, of course, was unaware of all this at the moment. A fifty-three-year-old dental hygienist, she was so appreciative of having been selected from the three-month waiting list for robotic hysterectomy, she would have consented to almost anything. Asleep, flat on an operating table fifteen feet from her surgeon, she was completely covered by a surgical drape except for a two-foot-square patch of abdominal skin. Black, pencil-thin robotic arms, each covered with its own sterile drape and aimed at her abdomen, pierced her skin and reached deep into her pelvis to grasp her uterus.
Now, images of her dangling organ were broadcast live for anyone with an online computer connection to see. The doctors, the nurses, and certainly the patient were carefully selected for these online dramas. The operating team even had scripts to follow. But a film crew cannot control for unexpected scenes.
As chief of OB/GYN at Memphis’s busiest hospital, Dr. French had performed over two hundred hysterectomies. Only the last twenty had been accomplished robotically. She was especially relieved that of all those twenty, this one was going the most smoothly. After one botched operation six months before, her Program of Robotic Surgery, the first of its kind in the Southeast, was on probation, the detail of every subsequent operation under harsh scrutiny.
The revenue from her program alone had helped lift the hospital’s bottom line from the red to a healthy surplus. The administrators of
Gates Memorial Hospital were eager to get Dr. French’s lucrative robotic program up and running again. Each operation after the one disaster had been a complete success. This operation, the first since the probation was lifted, had to be successful for her program to continue.