Betty O turns 80 this month and on Friday we celebrated her birthday. Betty is an operating room (OR) nurse and works with me at Woodburn Surgical Center in Fairfax, Virginia. Her specialty is Ophthalmology. She pioneered the development of the retina service at Fairfax hospital in the early 1970’s.
Betty has been an OR nurse for 59 years. She has taught most of the Ophthalmologists in the DC metro area, including myself, as our residency training rotated us through Fairfax Hospital. I spent about half my residency there and remember the long nights of assisting retina doctors with their cases. For some reason, retina surgery could only be done at night.
So, 3-4 nights a week, I’d be in the OR assisting retina surgery enduring the “wrath” of Betty. I often wondered why she never took a night off.
In short, Betty would make sure that I “behaved.” By that I mean, I learned proper operating room etiquette, what to touch, what not to touch, how to assist the surgeon, proper care and use of the instruments, etc.
Most retina surgery is now performed in an outpatient surgical center as we no longer require hospital stays. We are separate from the hospital which allows us to give our patients a more personalized experience. The setting is smaller and cozier, too.
Betty still works full time. As I am now the attending physician (one who has completed training), she keeps a watchful eye on the residents and students that “dare” to step into “our” retina room!
Betty still takes care of me. She makes sure that we are prepared for all of my patients, making sure we have the right instruments and supplies, and especially…making sure the patient’s needs are met.
Betty says she never had a birthday party. In a way, I believe it, because she is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. We had a surprise party and had one of our famous “pot-luck” lunches to celebrate. I made my favorite barbecue ribs.
What Does This Mean? In this fast paced age of digital media and time where people may actually never meet face-to-face (a la social media), it was nice to have a real celebration. We had something real to celebrate.
For me, it was a reason to celebrate someone so special to me, my career and my patients. For the center, it was a way to say thank you for showing us that dedication and loyalty still exist.
I wrote today to share Betty’s birthday with all of you. Maybe this will be her “15 minutes.” If you do know Betty, let this serve as a small reminder to say “Happy Birthday!”
Happy Birthday my friend!