Blood, Sweat & Fears

After surgery, someone has to clean up the blood and take away the removed body parts. At Rogue Valley Medical Center, that person is surgery aide Jeremiah Dizick.

It can be an amputated leg, fat from gastric bypass surgery or a cancer patient's tumor.

Jeremiah Dizick.

Age: 30.

Job title: Surgery aide.

Job description: Cleans up after surgery and disposes of body parts.

Salary: $10.75 to $ $14.78 an hour.

Education: Eight-month course for certified nurse's assistant in Centennial Job Corps in Nampa, Idaho.

At job: Since 2007. Has worked at Rogue Valley Medical Center for nine years.

Dream job: Surgeon, but realistically, physician's assistant, requiring four years of education.

If it's to be discarded, it is put in a biohazard container. If it needs analyzing, it's placed in a container of formula and taken to a lab.

It's a job not casually done, says Dizick. Out of respect for other patients and guests, he drapes a green towel over the containers before he walks them to their destination.

Some body parts go to the lab for cultures, blood work and other testing. Body parts needing to be examined for cancer go to pathology. Parts to be disposed of go to the Sterile Processing Department.

And because of ever-tightening rules around sterile procedure, everything gets strict attention to protocols and detail.

Body parts to be disposed of end up in four biohazard bins, about the size of recycling bins, which are checked often and taken away.

Dizick, the son of a disabled logger and an eldercare provider, realized he was going to have to support himself soon after graduating from Crater High School. So he chose his work in a hurry — never expecting it would be a perfect fit for him.

In his first day on the job, Dizick confesses he almost fainted from the cauterization process during hip replacement surgery. "You really have to develop a stomach for it," he says.

"Every day, I come to work with the knowledge I'm going to do something different," says the 30-year-old. "It's not like pumping gas, the same every day. I can understand how a lot of people wouldn't want this job and wouldn't want to deal with the blood and all the behind-the-scenes work, like totally sterilizing the room afterwards. But the room isn't going to clean itself."

Not only has he gotten used to it, but Dizick confesses he looks forward to "taking call" — that is, getting the night or weekend shift when 95 percent of the trauma, accident and gunshot-wound victims come in.

"You never know what you're walking into. I've seen it all," says Dizick. "And it's taught me to value life more. Death is something you try to avoid. You're trying to save life."

In helping at thousands of surgeries, Dizick takes a step back mentally from the blood and focuses on his tasks. Sometimes he holds a video camera on the surgeon's incision. Other times he keeps the incision open and visible with retractors.

But death, something he's witnessed in more than a dozen surgeries, is something that still bothers him.

It falls to Dizick and his fellow surgery aides to clean the body of the person who, only minutes before, they had been trying help save, so that the family can view it and achieve closure.

"It hits the doctors more than us when that happens. They take it more personally because they've been talking to the family and doing the surgery," says Dizick.

He acknowledges his job might qualify, in most people's minds, for TV's "Dirty Jobs" show. But for Dizick, it offers new learning every day as well as the chance "to try to save someone's life and keep them fighting — that's what surgery's all about."

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