I had six weeks to prepare myself for the surgery, but work being what it is, I hadn’t done much in the way of reflection before I found myself sitting in a friend’s car early one Friday morning being transported to the hospital. I thought about wearing my PJ's for the short trip. My doctor had suggested it, in fact, but can you imagine? What if we were involved in some freak accident on the way to the hospital? I can see the headline now: “Tragic Death of Pajama-Clad Woman...Local Asylums Queried.” I opted for drawstring yoga pants and a knit top.
I had been through surgery before (for my tonsils) so I was fairly certain what to expect. Sure enough, a nurse put me in a cotton gown open all the way down the back, slipper-socks with built-in treads (very stylish) and a rather becoming paper hat just like the ones lunch-ladies wear in school cafeterias everywhere. I had never felt prettier. She also strapped industrial-sized massage stockings on my lower legs designed to keep the blood circulating and prevent blood clots. I closed my eyes and pretended I was at a Spa.
Next, she drew blood. Or at least she tried to. When frightened, however, the Venous Cowardice tends to recede into the body, eluding any and all attempts to spear it with even so much as a tiny butterfly needle. After multiple tries on various arms and the backs of my hands, she gave up and decided to insert the I.V. and draw the blood from there. I started to get a very bad feeling.
After three more jaw-clenching episodes, this time with the much bigger I.V. needle, she finally succeeded. Sort of. She was able to draw blood from the I.V. but, as she turned on the I.V. fluid, my hand started to ache and get puffy around the needle. The nurse could not understand how she could possibly draw blood out of the vein yet now have a problem getting the I.V. fluid into the vein. As she leisurely contemplated this impossibility, I mapped out my escape route in my mind and waited for her to turn her back. First, rip out the I.V. Next, leap out of bed, grab my bag of clothes, use the treads on my slipper-socks for traction down the slippery hallway and don’t look back. Never mind that my bare ass will be showing as I race for freedom. This is no time for modesty!
Just as I reach for the I.V., in walks Anesthesiology Woman: 300 pounds of huggy love, righting injustices everywhere in her surgical gown and lunch-lady hat. She gets the I.V. switched to the opposite hand and makes sure it is working properly. Then, she covers me with pre-warmed blankets, sits down next to me, and holds my hand as she relates anesthesia worst-case scenarios. She's telling me there is an outside chance I may die. I find this curiously comforting. The last thing I remember is her voice saying “They’re putting some happy juice in your I.V. now, dear.”
Continued at Part 3