Surgical services are often hidden away at the core of a hospital. Isolated from the rest of the facility, OR staff members work in anonymity. They come into the building dressed in street clothes, unlike the other employees who are uniformed, changing into garb that covers all their identifiable parts, including their sexuality in some instances. Hair is covered with a hat, face with a mask, and everyone wears the same color scrubs.
Alexandra Donicka fit the example to a tee. During surgery while wearing a cover gown, she appeared asexual. Very tall for a woman and painfully thin from continuously running long distance, at first glance distinguishing her gender was difficult, and since she didn’t wear makeup, so you couldn’t tell by looking at her eyes. New employees or sales reps who had access to a room while a case was underway often didn’t know until she pulled the sterile gown off that Dr. Donicka was a woman.
“I can’t stand her.” It was not an unusual proclamation by the nursing staff and others who had to work closely with Alexandra. Many of the anesthesia staff felt the same way.
“If I had to work with her every day, I’d quit,” a young nurse said. “I don’t know how Grace does it.”
“How Grace does what?” Grace Hendrix walked into the staff lounge for coffee while her room was being cleaned between cases.
“How you work with Donicka. She makes my skin crawl,” the nurse replied.
“She’s okay,” Jeff Albertson said. He was a nurse anesthetist assigned to the neurosurgical service. “My problem with her is that she’s nuts.”
“Stop,” Grace said. “She’s fine.”
“She’s nuts,” Jeff replied. “Certifiable.”
“Shush, here she comes,” another nurse said. Everyone turned back to their coffee or newspapers or iPhones as Alexandra pushed the door to the lounge open. She walked over to Grace and stood next to her, silently.
“Would you like a graham cracker?” Grace asked.
She nodded her head.
Grace opened the package and gave it to her, like offering a toddler a snack.
“I’ll order your lunch now,” Grace said, looking over at Jeff. “Is that okay with you?” The next patient was in the holding area, and as soon as the room was clean, they’d prepare to bring him in for his surgery, a tumor dissection that often held surprises. It was a good thing the surgeon was going to eat now. She might not get another chance for hours.
Excerpt from The Savant of Chelsea by Suzanne Jenkins
Included in Do No Harm
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