A Rat in the O.R.

A rat sitting on the operating table
A rat sitting on the operating table

Have you ever had something come along in life and snatch your joy away?

While working at a new job in a rural hospital overseas I had a hard time trying to get used to the new scrubs. Instead of a top shirt and bottom pants, it was simply a surgical gown which they explained with the extreme heat you needed a little ventilation. However since I was about a foot taller than everyone else at the hospital even their largest gown only came down to my mid thigh and there was a slit up my leg that almost exposed my underwear so I had much more ventilation than I wanted. The first time I sat down in the doctor’s lounge waiting on a surgery to start I couldn’t decide whether to cross my legs, keep them together or tug my gown down. I was also a little embarrassed as I sensed many in the room were staring at my hairy legs. Among themselves they had never seen such hairy legs and arms before, and I felt conspicuous as there seemed to be a lot showing that I couldn’t cover up. It didn’t help when I caught a whispered comment, “I didn’t understand evolution at school, but I get it now.”

Feeling out of place and trying to hold my gown down I was concerned when I saw a rat run across the lounge into a corner behind a fire extinguisher. Nobody seemed concerned and didn’t stop their smoking or talking. I mentioned to the chief surgeon, “Should we do something?”

He nodded at a medical student who went over there and kicked the extinguisher startling the rat to run into the on-call room so everyone was satisfied.

The chief went on, “You’ve got to watch that rat. He’s a lot of trouble. The other day I was doing an appendectomy and heard a crash on the back table. Looked back, and there was that rat, running away with the appendix flapping in his mouth. It was very embarrassing because you know how we must present to the families the results of our surgery– the gallbladder, stomach, colon, – to prove it was a real surgery. Well, we didn’t have anything to show them and we sure couldn’t explain what had really happened. Pathology was also very unhappy that they didn’t receive a specimen, so keep your eyes out for that rat.”

I did. Every time I heard a loud crash while operating I spun around looking for that rat. It made me jumpy and took away the joy of surgery.

What do you do when something takes away your joy?

When our family was overseas we tried to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

For example, instead of getting upset when we went to eat at a restaurant and saw the inevitable rat dart across the floor, we started asking the kids if they thought the rat was fat. From this came the Randall Rat Restaurant Rating system that rivals the Michelin Star.

If the rat was fat, we gave the restaurant a four rat rating as the food was very good.

If the rat was medium, it got a three rat rating.

If skinny, the food obviously wasn’t very good and it got a two rat rating.
If there were no rats, it showed the food was too poor even for a rat, and it got a one rat rating so we never returned.

Needless to say this RATing system may vary on different locations that you are living in.

As Song of Solomon 2:15 (NIV) says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyard,” it is great if you can stop the things in life which try to steal your joy. If you can’t catch them then try to find something positive about the situation for which you can be thankful.


  1. Susie

    I love the Randall Rat restaurant rating system. Instead of 4 stars or 5 stars, you could have a system with little rat emoji’s.
    Great reminder to not let things steal our joy.

  2. Shirley Randall

    Oh Mark, that was so funnyy. So did Miles come up with a rat for you or is this one running around the OR. I loved your description of wearing the hospital scrub top which was too short and too open. I could just picture that. At Sanyati the children would try to sit by your Daddy during service so they could rub up and down his hairy arms. I guess some families have more hair than others.

  3. Shirley Randall

    SO glad you are doing a blog and really enjoy your writing. This was so funny. I could see you in that skimpy gown. looking forward to more blogs.

Latest Blog