Vascular Surgery



Vascular Surgery

There’s a good reason women make the best surgeons, she thought.

Quick, deft hands, single-pointed concentration, focus.

She thought of the women jet engine mechanics she had met in the Air Force.

Not that she had been in the Air Force; but in the course of her duties as a civilian surgeon under contract, she had met them. Now, reining in her reverie, she was intent on the task at hand.

Drat this light, she thought. She really needed a more direct light source, but one has to work with what one has at hand.

Slowly, painstakingly, she drew the outlines with a surgical marker: carotid triangle; carotid vein; carotid artery. This, the artery, was what she wanted.

She steadied the syringe she had readied with an oh-so-fine 27-gauge needle.

2% lidocaine with epinephrine should be enough analgesia for comfort, and enough epinephrine to ensure a relatively bloodless field. She couldn’t help chuckling: bloodless indeed.

Squinting in the insufficient light, she injected the layers: first the skin, then the loose fascia of the neck; lastly, the layer surrounding the vessels of the neck, careful to avoid direct injection into the wall of the vessel, which might cause a spasm.

Now it was time to cut. She picked up the number 11 scalpel and steadied her hand. Carefully, carefully she opened the delicate skin of the neck, noting with satisfaction that the epinephrine had done its job. There was no need for the tiny hemostats she had ready in case of superficial bleeders.

The next layer, the loose fascia, pulsated bluish, overlying the great vessels of the neck. These she would blunt dissect with the larger curved hemostats.

She injected a bit more of the anesthetic, just to be sure. No need to cause discomfort, which might result in unwanted movement.

At last the artery was exposed. She marveled at its pulsations, at the tiny arteries that nourished the big one itself, and the minuscule veins that issued from it, carrying its waste into the larger system of veins, to be cleansed by the liver and kidneys downstream.

Holding her breath, she slid the first hemostat, jaws open, under the artery. Clamp. The vessel, trapped in the jaws of the hemostat, stopped pulsing abruptly. There was no going back now.

Now the second hemostat, exactly one and a half centimeters below the first: clamp. She raised the surgical scissors, poised for the definitive cut between the clamps.

Tilting her head to see better in the mirror, she cursed the dim light in that bathroom again.

And then, the definitive cut!

In a single motion, she swiftly removed the two clamps and was instantly drenched in red liquid. A scream of agony split the night as she sat bolt upright in the bed, heart pounding, drenched in sweat, clutching the sodden bedclothes as she struggled, locked in the arms of the Angel of Death like biblical Jacob.

Frantically clutching her throat, she rushed to the bathroom, the very same bathroom, and strained toward the mirror in the same dim light.


Her throat, graceful and bluish white as ever, shone back at her from the reflection. Sucking in a deep gulp of air, letting it out in a sigh that brought the dog running, she splashed water on her face and neck, toweling off the sweat.

“It’s OK, buddy,” she whispered to her whining canine companion. “Just another nightmare.”

The dog smiled anxiously, wagged his tail tentatively, and licked her calf. She reached down and patted his faithful head.

“Good thing I have you, she murmured. Stripping off her sweat-soaked nightgown, she rinsed off in the shower before throwing on a fresh one. She sank into the recliner with a book: sleep would not visit again, not tonight.


Leave a comment


  1. Wow. I was totally sucked in!

  2. i have to ask-have you posted something similar to this previously? i could swear i had read this before. either way, it is an engrossing read, terrifying to the end, and an excellent show of flashbacks and ptsd.

    • Yes, I cross-posted it when it first came out on Near To The Knuckle/Close To The Bone, which actually is a Noir Crime genre eZine, but they liked it so much they decided to publish it. Since I kept the rights I decided to publish it here, because I like it so much too! I think it’s my best piece so far, maybe tied with Alien. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but occasionally I think I write something decent, and you know what? It feels great to be able to look at my own work and say, wow, that ain’t bad….after being told “You can’t do anything right” even to this day (and I mean THIS day). I’ve been trying to figure out what genre it actually is, and I think it’s horror. What do you think? And the worst part is, this is something that actually happened to me, back when I was obsessed with refining my suicide plan, making it really “elegant”……I was in a really deep trance, and I visualized this, and my service dog woke me up out of it……so I had to write it down, pretty much exactly the way it happened. Yuck, but makes a good story LOL (irony font here)…..

      • i think it is horror, maybe cross-referenced with ‘thriller’, ‘suspense’. puts me in mind of the old show ‘alfred hitchcock presents’ and also the old one hosted by boris karloff called ‘thriller’ (these are on a station i get, and i love watching them!)

        ok, glad to know i was not imagining things or remembering things that never happened–that you did post it before. and very happy that you got it published, also! it is definitely worthy of that.

        • Thanks for the compliment and the help figuring out the genre! That is always a problem for me: I can’t step back far enough to see the forest for the trees. I always fall over the cliff LOL!!! I’m writing a thriller right now that’s drawn from my experiences as a Pediatric ER doc and a mom. It has five main characters besides myself, and all of them died traumatic deaths (for real), so I’m bringing them back to life in my novel. I don’t know whether to leave this piece as it is, as a “short short,” or to incorporate it into my novel as the main character (me) slowly leaves sanity behind….

  3. Oh, now I see it: I did publish it here under another name! I mean the post had another name. Maybe I did too! Oh well. First time for everything.

  4. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  April 17, 2014

    I loved this! Maybe I was enticed by the by line.. Not for the faint of heart. Of course I had to read it now! 😉


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