My surgery was supposed to be at seven a.m. and they want me there at five. The day before, the scheduling nurse called to give me some last minute instructions. Now, she says it is scheduled for eleven a.m. and I have to be there at nine.
Too bad, I woke up at five. I threw my back out, and I have a splitting headache. Of course, you can’t take or drink anything, so I rub my temples.
I’m so afraid of following my normal routine, that I wrote myself a note. “Don’t eat or drink anything!”
My sister’s car is in the shop, so I had to pick up my family. We are running a tad late. My sister doesn’t get in the car. She stands outside and blows her nose and coughs up a storm.
I put my head down on the steering wheel in attempt to calm my nerves. My mom pats my shoulder. A few blocks from the hospital, mom says, “Let’s go to Grand Island and forget all this.” Okay, I say but keep driving.
We get to the procedure center and there sits my cousin, Tami. I am shocked and surprised. We wrap each other in a hug and I point at her to my mom and sister. They immediately break into tears too.
Some general guffaws as they take me back to get ready. My sister comes with me. It’s good because she listens to their instructions better than I do, and keeps telling me what I’m not doing right.
My mom and Tami come back to join us. The nurses start their check lists, what I’m allergic too, and then we go over my medical history.
The surgical nurse asks me if I’m allergic to Latex. I say no, with a brief pause and a deeper voice. We move on to other allergies. “Back to the Latex question,” I say. I explain briefly once fifteen years ago my co-workers covered my desk in balloons, and I had difficulty breathing. I further explain I’ve never had a problem since then, and don’t know if I’m allergic or not.
I hear her recounting the story outside my room, she reenters and announces, “There will be no latex in the operating room.” She says it with such authority and clarity, that it reminds me of a movie where they introduce royalty.
I tell my family about surgery stories I’ve heard recently. “Does anybody ever ask for the mediocre surgeon? Bring on the guy who got straight “C”s. I want him.”
The Anesthesiologist asks more questions and listens to my heart and lungs. Over the past several months, doctors and nurses have all said the same thing. “Deep breaths.” Can’t they come up with something more original? It makes me think of the Seinfeld episode about sneezing. Instead of saying, God Bless you, or gazuntite, they suggest you could say, “You’re so good looking.” Maybe instead of saying, deep breaths, they can say “You’re so good looking.” Surely, that will produce the same results. Or they could say something like gazuntite, and everyone will know it means deep breaths. The universally accepted meaning of gazuntite is God Bless you, but it really means “Good health to you.” Both are entirely appropriate.
I find myself staring off into the distance. Is this really happening to me? ME? I’m so healthy, is this really me? I know my thyroid must go. I know, the biopsy results. Cancer. I wish to deny it. Run away. I don’t want to get rid of it. It’s mine. I’ve had it my entire life. How is it possible that something you are born with, that you never gave a thought to before in life suddenly means so much? God gave it to us for a reason, and to rid myself of it, seems wrong. If I could grasp it with my hands, I would. No, you are not getting it! My emotions start to go haywire and I remember my family. If I break down, they will too. I calm myself.
The surgeon’s previous surgery was delayed. Oh, my aching head. I rub my temples.
I ask to use the restroom. I’m afraid it will ruin everything. It’s so unclean, but they are fine with it.
The surgeon enters. I ask a few serious questions, about the scar and my recovery. Then I ask a few stupid ones full of quips and guffaws. I have a few more, but don’t ask them.
Now, the time draws near. The activity level in my room is at a fevered pitch. I know they are about to take me. I hold out my hands and request my family to gather round. I ask my sister to say a prayer. She’s good at this kind of thing, far better than I. I order her not to cry, but to avail.
She asks God to guide the surgeon’s hands, and thanks our “Heavenly Father” for the incredible skilled care of the nurses. They push my bed out of the room and my surgical nurse tells me, “She even had me in tears.”
The IV is started and I am out.
I woke up a few hours later. Someone in the recovery room is moaning uncontrollably. (And it’s not me!) Before, I can think to complain about the noise, they move me to my room.
I can’t sleep. Whenever a baby is born, the hospital plays a few notes of Brahms Lullaby. Over the years, I’ve had many appointments in the hospital before. I’ve visited many people and it surprises me that I’ve never thought of it, but I decide to pray for the baby, and pray for the parents. I pretend to be in the delivery room. I visualize the new born infant and the happy parents. I’m strangely comforted knowing that while I lay in the hospital, in some small way, I am somehow able to help this new born baby and her family.
Thus, ends my surgery day.