Surgery Stories: The Cheese Sandwich

“One never knows what they will encounter while working in hospital. From odd tattoos to piercings, and dysfunctional families, every nurse has a tale to tell. What follows is a story that has been told in many cities across the United Sates. It grabs the readers attention and imagination, making them ask, “Really? Wow.”

Working in an operating room is a place to meet the most intersting people. It is also where unbelievable situations come to life right before ones eyes. Over the years, our group has seen tattoos, good and bad, as well as people with piercing one’s mother would never think to worry about. However, the most memorable encounters become stories to share at the end of the day, and a few become legendary. Here is the greatest surgery story I have ever heard.

Surgery Stories: The Cheese Sandwich

Someone I went to nursing school claims that one evening he was called to come to the hospital to care for someone whose appendix needed removal. There is nothing unusual about this; everyone has done this a hundred times or more. Getting the patient to the operating room was uneventful and went to sleep. The only thing was that the woman was immensely overweight, and the usual safety precautions were followed to make sure nothing went wrong.

As this nurse began to get the sleeping patient ready for surgery, it was found that her tummy, aside from being rather large, also had many folds of skin, as is the patient had been heavier and lost this weight. This presents a challenge, as prepping the skin for surgery consists of washing the area to be worked on. Due to the skin folds, the antiseptic wash would be a little harder, because the skin had to be pulled apart so that the soap can reach all the cracks and crevices.


As the nurse started to wash the belly, a discovery occoured. Between one of the folds was a days old cheese sandwich. Of course, the sandwich was removed for the team to see, and the surgery went on without incident. The patient was taken to the recovery room where she could be watched as the medicine wore off and could wake up.

Now, the sense of humor in the operating room is rather strange, and the nurse wanted to know more about the sandwich inside the skin folds of the patient. A legendary story was born here as the pateint, when asked, said she didn’t know what they were talking aout. However, her face brightened, and said that she had forgotten that the sandwich was there. She said she had made it a few days ago and had put it there to keep it warm. At some point the snack was forgotten.

This is a great story to share with new students who come to us and at gatherings of nurses, all wanting to share their experiences with fellow providers. It is a way to cope with the stresses and strains of the job. Best of all, it is unforgettable.


Written by Jowell Hearn
Operating Room Nurse, Health Writer & Educator. Husband and father.