Ever since he assumed his duty as a doctor, Lu Wenbin had been deemed one of the department hunks in the Emergency Department.
His body was in good shape, and he could be as tall as five feet nine if he wore shoes. Even though he did not slim down enough to reveal his abs after years of training, the thickness of his chest muscles was enough to prevent the hemostatic forceps from clipping on his aorta. The hardness of his gluteal muscles was enough to break the needle for injection.
Other than having rough skin, lots of hair over his skin, a possibly asymmetrical face, a not-tall-enough nasal bridge, not-big-enough eyes, and having a slightly higher hairline, he only had a few other flaws: slightly bent legs, slightly stinky feet, prominent ears, a short neck, thick lips, a submissive personality, low salary, no car, no house, and no money in his bank account.
Regardless of that, in accordance to the Emergency Department's standards, anyone under the age of thirty-five without any signs of disability and who possessed some degree of skill was considered a department hunk. Therefore, everyone in the department took care of him as much as possible. Whenever the attending physicians were slacking off, they would always ask for Lu Wenbin.
Lu Wenbin was also full of enthusiasm all the time, he could use the retractor in the operating theater for a minimum of two or three hours.
During surgery, one needed to cut across the skin in a straight line using a scalpel. One would need to further pull the muscles apart using a special flat hook to either one side or both sides in order to expand the surgeon's field of view into the patient's body.
Using a retractor was deemed to be very tiring physical work as muscles were active components in the body. Hence, the patient's muscles would contract back towards the middle of the incision when the retractor was used on them. Therefore, resident doctors and interns who used retractors often had strong arms after being in the operation theater for a long time.
The results of Lu Wenbin's efforts in keeping fit were not only acknowledged in the operating theater. When he showed himself in the emergency room or in the treatment room, doctors and nurses often asked for his help as well.
Wandering around like a tumbleweed between different departments was originally Lu Wenbin's fate as a young department hunk. What made him the happiest now, was that the torturous standardized training was finally over. There was no need for him to wander between different departments anymore. Finally, he could be rooted in the department like a normal department hunk and grow under the glorious care of the chief resident, attending physicians, the associate chief physicians as well as the chief physicians.
Lu Wenbin took a deep breath as he carefully distinguished the smell of Povidone iodine and eighty-four other different scents. As the sun's ray shone on his face, every fine hair on his face became clearly visible.
"Lu Wenbin." Department Director Huo beckoned him over.
Lu Wenbin looked like a cheerful reindeer running towards Santa. "Department director."
"From today onwards, you shall learn the M-Tang technique from Ling Ran. Whatever you learn counts." Huo Congjun turned around and left after he was done talking. He did not give Lu Wenbin the slightest time to react.
When Lu Wenbin returned to his senses, his direct supervisor, Associate Department Director Du had already come face to face with him. Smiling, he said, "Young Lu, congratulations. The M-Tang technique is a huge project in our Emergency Department. Even within the entire province, it is also a high-end project. It will be something very promising in the future. For you, being selected by Department Director Huo at this time, is considered a challenge and a stroke of good luck as well. You have to maintain a good attitude, work hard, and obtain the true essence of the technique."
There seemed to be confusion in Lu Wenbin's eyes. Still not fully sold, he asked, "Department Director, am I going to assist an intern?"
"The chief surgeon is Department Director Huo, Ling Ran is only the first assistant surgeon. You're the second assistant surgeon," Associate Department Director Du corrected Lu Wenbin.
"But-But, this is just too strange."
"What's so strange about it? Society today no longer judges a hero from his or her academic certificate. So what? You think you should be the first assistant surgeon and Ling Ran should be the second assistant surgeon just because you're already a resident doctor while he's just an intern?" Department Director Du was very keen to add that Marshal Tian Peng was only able to be the second fellow apprentice to his Master. However, in order to avoid agitating Lu Wenbin too much, Associate Department Director Du firmly resisted that urge. He decided to keep this secret until the card game in the evening.
Lu Wenbin seemed dazed as he said, "I don't care about whether I'll be the first or second assistant surgeon, but"
"Then everything should be fine." Associate Department Director Du patted Lu Wenbin on the shoulder and said, "You don't need to feel burdened. You are still young. You are at the stage of learning new skills. You need to think like this: if you should master the M-Tang technique, do you think you'll need to worry about being promoted to an attending physician? This is a good opportunity that the other doctors won't ever get to fight for even if they want to."
Lu Wenbin whispered softly, "Then, give it to the other doctors."
Associate Department Director Du coughed twice and said, "Department Director Huo has taken a fancy to you, and I have no choice in the matter. Let's just leave it this way."
The moment he finished talking, he turned around and vanished without a trace.
Lu Wennin had nowhere to go to ask for help or anyone to listen to his complaints
Wherever he went, the resident doctors avoided him like the plague.
As for the attending physicians, Lu Wenbin did not dare trouble them.
"Lu Wenbin, we've been looking for you." Nurse Wang Jia rushed in and grabbed Lu Wenbin. Then she asked, "You weren't in the office or the operating theater. Where did you go?"
"I-I don't know either," Lu Wenbin spoke these few words weakly, and he quickly asked, "Do you know where Department Director Huo is?"
"Department Director Huo went to contact the Patient Flow Management Center."
"The Patient Flow Management Center?"
"Yes. There's a case of a patient having ruptured tendons in the thumb in Lan Tai County. The original plan was to perform an amputation. However, the department director heard about it and contacted the patient. He wanted the patient to come over to our Emergency Department to receive the M-Tang technique surgery instead. Now he's trying to persuade the patient," Wang Jia answered the question raised by Lu Wenbin, and she continued to say, "Doctor Ling is in the old storeroom. He informed me to ask you to get over there and practice when I see you."
"Wait... Hold on a second, you talk too fast. What is Department Director Huo trying to persuade the patient into?" Lu Wenbin was a little confused.
Wang Jia pouted and quietly called him a newbie in her heart. Nevertheless, she continued to say, "The patient planned to have an amputation surgery mainly because of financial considerations. The cost for an amputation surgery in the local tertiary grade B hospital is about 3,000 RMB. The cost will become around 6,000 if the M-Tang technique is performed to stitch up the tendons. Department Director Huo proposed to reduce the cost by half in hopes that the patient will accept the invitation to receive the M-Tang technique surgery."
"The patient agreed to be amputated in order to save money?" Lu Wenbin, a young doctor who had just finished the standardized training, was very shocked. He thought to himself, then said, "Since Department Director Huo has offered to reduce the fee, the patient should be very eager to come over, right? Why did he need to persuade him?"
"Medical expenses are not the same as surgery." Wang Jia had been a nurse for several years. She had seen more patients than Lu Wenbin, so she simply said, "Patients have to rent a car for 1,000 RMB just to travel from Lan Tai County to Yun Hua. Not to mention, the cost of medical treatment will be higher compared to his local treatment expenses. In addition, after amputation surgery, the patient can be discharged from the hospital very soon and get back to work. But the recovery period for getting a flexor tendon repair will be longer. The patient has neither medical insurance nor a permanent job. Now, his medical cost will increase but his income will reduce. Therefore, Department Director Huo went to persuade him."
Lu Wenbin had a lot of questions, but he could not get them out of his chest.
"Hurry up, Doctor Ling is waiting." Wang Jia urged.
Lu Wenbin had no choice but to follow her to the old storeroom first.
The old storeroom was located at a place where the Inpatient Department had previously piled up their goods and materials. Currently, it was used to store some crude benzenes and old goods, which were not moved around frequently. Lu Wenbin had been in the Emergency Department for a few years but he had only been to the storeroom to grab supplies twice.
When they got to the place and pushed the door open, the first thing reflected in his eyes was a row of pig legs.
The white, raw pig's legs were hung underneath the lampshade. Ling Ran was standing right in the middle of the room. Along with the old, gloomy atmosphere in the storeroom, the scene appeared like a bizarre ritual in motion.
"Doctor Ling, we've arrived," Wang Jia shouted to dispel the strange thought materializing in her mind.
Lu Wenbin's face turned pale a little before he asked, "Are the pig's legs also from the storeroom?"
"I bought them." Ling Ran lifted his head and looked at Lu Wenbin as he said, "Doctor Lu, I'm going to use the flexor tendon in the pig's hind foot as experimental material. Shall we try this out as a team?"
Actually, Ling Ran was more eager to let Lu Wenbin try it out. Otherwise, it would spell trouble for him if he took an assistant who did not understand anything about the M-Tang technique.
Lu Wenbin could not help but feel slightly hesitant.
"I've cut the deep tendon in the metatarsophalangeal joint in a horizontal manner." Ling Ran was holding a scalpel while pointing at the pig leg in front of him. "It's basically equivalent to the injury for flexor tendon repair found in Zone II of the metacarpophalangeal joint. I will now demonstrate by performing one set of stitches for you."
Ling Ran did not ask for Lu Wenbin's opinion. He just started to explain his prior preparations to Lu Wenbin.
Soon after, Ling Ran put down the scalpel and picked up the needle holder.
"So, what should we do if Department Director Huo fails to persuade the patient?" Lu Wenbin asked out of the blue.
Ling Ran's movements did not show even the slightest sign of hesitation. He only said, "Since we've started to look for patients, there's no way that we won't be able to find any. We'll just wait in peace and everything will be alright."
As he spoke, the needle he held in his hand had already punctured the flexor tendon of the pig's hind foot.
One stitch after another
Ling Ran just kept going without saying a word. However, the direction of the operation was slightly adjusted to a pace where it was convenient for Lu Wenbin to participate.
Lu Wenbin swallowed quietly.
1. Marshal Tian Peng: Refer to as the Commander of Heavenly Naval Forces in the Chinese story named 'Journey to the West'.
2. Metatarsophalangeal joint: joints between the metatarsal bones of the foot and the proximal bones of the toes. (Source: Wikipedia)
3. Metacarpophalangeal joint: largest joints of the hand situated between the metacarpal bones and the proximal phalanges of the digits.