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Like I need a hole in the head…

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Below is an article written by Dr. Vernon Coleman which was first published in The Sunday Times on 12 December 1971.

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By Dr. Vernon Coleman

The patient had come in to have a cyst removed from the top of his head and he’d been lying on a hospital bed for three hours. Three hours is plenty of time for a patient to start imagining the worst.

The senior surgeon had left the theatre and gone for his morning coffee. He’d just finished one long case and had another one due to start as soon as I’d finished. Apart from the nurse designated to help me, the theatre staff were busy clearing up the debris from the last operation and preparing trolleys for the next one. Instead of being a silent, tidy place the operating theatre looked more like a busy railway station buffet.

The porter brought the patient in on a trolley and helped him climb off and onto the operating table. As the cyst was on the back of his head, we had to get him to lie on his face, resting his chin on his hands. It looked very uncomfortable.

I carefully picked up one of those green towels with a neat hole in the middle and draped it over the man’s head. A tuft of greasy black hair sprang up through the hole. I pulled the towel off and sat down for a minute or two while the theatre porter found a razor and shaved a convenient area around the cyst.

He must have been an unusually enthusiastic porter for when I looked again a few seconds later, he’d shaved a huge circle in the middle of the man’s head. The poor fellow would have only needed an old dressing gown and he’d have been able to go to a fancy dress party as a monk.

I put the towel back and accepted the scalpel which the nurse offered me. I was just about to start cutting when the man reached up and scratched at his scalp, pulling the sterile towel off. I pointed out that it would be easier for both of us if he kept still.

The blade was only about a quarter of an inch away from the man’s head when I realised that I still hadn’t put in any local anaesthetic. Wearily, I handed the knife back to the nurse and drew up some local in a syringe.

“Can you feel anything?” I asked, prodding the area around the cyst with a needle after I’d injected some anaesthetic.

The man shook his head, dislodging the towel again. The nurse put on a fresh towel. I picked up the knife once more, and began to cut through the skin. It was hot in the theatre, the air conditioning had broken down for the third time in a week and I think I would have been sweating if I’d been working in a fridge. It was a big cyst which seemed to be getting bigger every minute. I couldn’t help thinking that if I removed it I’d have a huge flap of spare skin and the man would have a hollow skull. My mask was sticking to my mouth, my boots were flooded with sweat and I had an itch at the back of my neck.

Eventually, I got the cyst out. For the first few minutes of the operation, the patient kept up a steady stream of chatter, and then slowly he quietened down, perhaps silenced by the nurse’s gasps of surprise as the cyst slipped out, perhaps worried by the rivulets of blood trickling down his scalp.

Where the cyst had been there was now a hole about an inch deep and an inch across. I was looking at it, wondering how best to close it, when one of the anaesthetists came in.

“Gawd,” he said. “What a big hole!” He called to one of the porters. “Come and have a look at the enormous hole Coleman’s made in this guy’s head.”

Frantically, I tried to catch his eye, to let him know that the patient wasn’t unconscious. But he’d already turned away and was trying to persuade a couple of very junior nurses to come and look at the enormous hole I’d made.

Desperately I tried to sew up the hole as quickly as possible.

“Are you all right?” I asked tentatively, as I put in the last stitches. There was no answer. I repeated the question. There was still no reply. I bent down so that I was only a foot away. “Are you still there?” I called. I took the green towel off and swabbed away some of the thicker rivulets of blood. The patient didn’t move. “It’s OK,” I said. “I’ve finished, you can move now.” Still he didn’t move.

I was getting rather frightened. Perhaps I had dug down too deep. Perhaps that stuff I’d thought was part of the cyst … perhaps the patient had taken umbrage at the anaesthetist’s remarks …

“It’s all over,” I shouted. The theatre staff preparing for the next big case came into theatre to see what was the matter.

With a yawn, the patient pushed himself up onto one elbow and then rubbed his eyes.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

Blearily the patient nodded and blinked. “Sorry,” he said. “I must have dropped off. Haven’t you started yet?”

Taken from ‘Stories with a Twist in the Tale‘ by Vernon Coleman, available on Amazon.  

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1 month ago

What a crock For a start he should have known how big it was and thought about how BEST to remove it and repair the damage Before he cut it out And 2 he shouldn’t have needed to go to surgery and have nurses and spectators either He should have just drained it like a normal person would. And 3 if I t happened now he would be supposed to tell the patient it was early stage cancer and he was really lucky that they caught it and he would only need surgery and 6 months of chemo and radiation and whatever else he could legally prescribe And then he could say he had cured another cancer victim But you have to come back you know It hides inside. We’ve have to keep peeking about For a fee

Reply to  Anonymous
1 month ago

Drained it…DRAINED it! Evidently you have zero clue about certain sorts of cysts, that they are encapsulated in a bag. You can keep ‘draining’ them til the cows come home, and they will keep filling on up, and eventually get infected. There is no real way to know exactly how deep the capsule goes under it gets cut out.

1 month ago

Really love you posting so many Doctor Vernon articles currently at the moment Rhoda, however this one did best Christopher Timothy delivering a calf for pure gross out.

Think picturing the events described have more effect than seeing them probably. Made me put down my chocolate hobnob too.

Reply to  Demeter
1 month ago

currently at the moment” Yep, definitely unsettled me =)

1 month ago

Love Dr Coleman! A true hero in this time of madness. And a great sense of humour to boot.

John Steeples
John Steeples
1 month ago

How to make money by destroying people’s lives

When we are talking about doctors and the deadly drugs they peddle. You’ve only got to look at the side effects of a lot of drugs there are more dangerous the street drugs. We get a lot of years in prison. The use of drug companies can peddle to everybody and they don’t really repair the body. They keep the body going and keep the cash coming into the drug companies.

 advertised mint you see is selling them, peddling junk food

You know, I’m quite sick about everything. I am in the second war. We killed millions of Jews

Now chemotherapy came out and that’s now killed millions

Now with got the covid 19 injections as I have been going around the world and now that is killed millions
millions to die in the next few years make money and not get no redress.

The world is been slowly destroyed and nobody is stopping things where I am in the Philippines. There are 1 million fires every day. 
Nobody does anything about it and by cutting trees down we make oxygen and clean the oxygen then goes ozone layer is getting warmer the ice cap is melting, drops in the sea, and people and changes the weather is going to change in the sea and people can’t see what’s happening

To have called this making money

1 month ago

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