Monday, January 16, 2012

the day a brain surgeon operated on me

I watched some re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy Sunday morning as we waited for rain to clear.

On a summer day many years ago as a teen still living at my mother’s house, I was chopping an onion. I was not paying close attention and the knife gently sliced deeply into the tip of the middle finger. The initial cut didn’t actually hurt that much, but onion juice seeped into my open finger.


I rinsed my hand in cold water and squeezed it firmly with a paper towel to stop the bleeding.

The bleeding was profuse and was not stopping. I held my finger tight re-wrapping it with paper towels a few times they got soaked with blood.

“Mom... it’s not stopping...” I whimpered... “Should I go to the hospital?”

My mom, amused yet slightly perturbed that dinner preparation was now fully interrupted by a bleeding kid, came up with an idea.

“Let’s call Dr. Cunningham” she announced and picked up the phone.

The Cunninghams lived on the next block. They had lots of kids (7? 8?) and a huge, beautiful house. Their oldest daughter was my age and they had another daughter my younger sister’s age. We had been at their home several times for parties or to hang out and watch TV with Cunningham girls. Their kitchen was big. It had an island with stools in the middle, lots of tasteful dark wood and preppy dark navy blue and white color decor. I loved going to their house just to look at it. Mrs. Cunningham was an interior designer for rich clients and their home showcased her talent.

Dr. Cunningham was a successful brain surgeon highly respected in his field. He was a dashingly handsome man. Mrs. Cunningham was beautiful with short, wild, fluffy red hair and a permanent tan. Their kids were good looking, too. There were a few internal family fights throughout the years when passions and tempers flared – they looked like a perfect wealthy family but no, they weren’t perfect. Everyone has their share of problems of course, rich or poor.

“Hi Miles, this is Betty...” my mom said when he picked up the line. “Lisa just cut her finger badly and we’re not sure if we should go into the hospital, what do you think we should do?” she politely probed.

“....Oh...? OK... wonderful...! We’ll be right there, thank you so much” she declared as she hung up the phone. “We’re going to the Cunningham’s” said mom.

I put a fresh paper towel on my now throbbing finger and she and I drove the one minute to their house.

“Hi there Lisa, let’s take a look shall we?” says Dr. C smiling as we enter the back door into their lovely kitchen. My mom greets Mrs. C and a couple younger kids.

All of a sudden I realize my mother, Mrs. C and the kids had vacated the kitchen.

They had left me.

I was alone with Dr. C.

He was now getting a small surgery kit out of a drawer and I sat on a designer stool at their large island in the middle of their showcase kitchen awaiting my fate.

“You need a stitch or two” he happily quipped as he found the correct sized curved suture needle.

The fear set in but I swallowed and braced myself for some pain.

Dr. Cunningham deftly took my finger with his left hand and swiftly put a stitch in exact right spot while I glanced away. He knotted it and said “Just one stitch will do... Leave it in for a few days. I can take it for you when it heals”. The non-absorbable stitch took maybe 2-3 seconds. I was no longer bleeding. I was whole again. I went to find my mother who was down the hall in their gorgeous living room chatting away with Mrs. C.

“I needed a stitch...” I informed them and held up my finger. Crisis over.

“Thank you ...!” we both said to the Cunninghams as mom and I left a few minutes later.

I ponder how many stitches Dr. C had done on his own kids with his trusty surgery kit in their kitchen drawer. My small wound healed beautifully. I cut and pulled out the nylon string out of my finger myself a week later when it was loose.

Dr. Cunningham is retired now after, presumably, millions of stitches he did as a surgeon... A few years ago, he and Mrs. C downsized to tasteful smaller home. Their kids are all out on their own as successful adults with busy designer lives.

Sometimes I wonder if Dr. Cunningham remembers the time he gave my finger a single expert single stitch (doubt it). But I do ponder it on occasion – especially when I slice some onions... I do that much more carefully now.


  1. Lisa- My Mom was a nurse on the Southside. Needless to say, I never received stitches by a Doctor. Saved some money for Mom & Dad, but damn, anesthesia would have helped

  2. Fabulous story, Lisa. While I have none that match it, I did think about how many doctors in this day and age would not ever consider doing a quick stitch or two on a youngster's cut finger in their kitchen for fear of being sued. Or for fear of not being paid mega-bucks. Or just plain, simple fear.

    Those were the days, my friend...

  3. J.O.B., did you have a surgery kit in your kitchen cupboard?! :)

    Thx ClassicFilm, you are so correct about the 'good ol days'...! :)