A Fun Trip to the Hospital

25 09 2009

I’m not at all sure there is a delicate and lady-like way to blog about your recent surgery, but I intend to do it any way.  I was up again last night brooding about my experience, and I am strongly tempted to write a letter to the editor of our local paper or appear as a frightening apparition to whatever manager I can find in the office of the anesthesiologists (I have no hope whatsoever of catching one of the actual doctors and giving him a piece of my mind.)  In the meantime I can vent my feelings in this blog, which will hopefully lead to my getting more sleep!

The surgery itself seems to have gone famously.  I feel rather as if I’ve been spitted on knitting needles, but the wretched pain is gone.  Which was the point.  No more of that aching, cramping awfulness that’s been grinding me down for months.  Now there is only the clean pain of where they lasered and cauterized the growth.  That and the various holes they made in me.

I’ve been trying to describe what they did to my six-year-old son.  I told him they poked tiny lasers into my belly and blasted away all the bad things.  Last night he was gently rubbing my damaged belly.  He looked up at me and said confidently, “They blasted all the bad germs, didn’t they?”  I nodded.  “So when are they going to take the lasers out?” he wanted to know.  Apparently he was afraid they’d left their guns behind inside!

The doctor apparently found something he wasn’t expecting while poking around in my inner spaces.  In the recovery room, the nurse left my file laying on the bed for a moment when she stepped into the hall.  Neal quickly pounced on it and pulled some photos out of a pocket, so I got to see the anomaly my body produced without asking my permission.  It wasn’t cancer.  It was a rat’s nest of blood vessels located near and stretching to enclose one of my ovaries.  It looked like a cross between a handful of blood worms and an invasive clump of wisteria trying to take over a tall tree.  The nurse came back and reappropriated the photos before I got to see the photos of the endometriosis sites they found.  Heaven forbid I be able to see the photos of my own body.

The errant blood vessels were apparently the subject of a hasty conference between my doctor and my husband while I was lying like a cold fish on the operating slab, skewered and at the mercy of the anesthesiologist.  They debated removing the ovary.  It was apparently impossible to remove the entanglement without cutting the ovary’s blood supply entirely.  Which seemed a shame, as the organ itself is perfectly healthy.   They also debated leaving the whole mess alone and coming back in a month to see if it had gotten worse, which thankfully my husband vetoed.  In the end they decided to cauterize the trunk of the growth and hope it withered and faded of its own accord.  I am hoping this works, and that nothing turns septic or difficult, because if it does, I’ll be back in soon having the ovary out.  Still, it was a great comfort to me, hearing about this afterward, to know that Neal was taking care of me and making good decisions for me even when I was out of the picture.  It is a wonderful, wonderful thing to have a spouse you trust.  I don’t think there is anything else as good available on Earth.

My doctor was wonderful, but I’m afraid I can’t say the same about the prep room nurses or the anesthesiologist staff.  I know it is true that these are only people doing a difficult job day in and day out under pressure.  I don’t expect them to be particularly curious about me, or even particularly concerned with my affairs or problems.  But I would like the minimum amount of courtesy, and I would like them to tell me what they’re going to do before they do it.  I have a real dislike to people who draw a needle full of some drug and shoot it into my I.V. without telling me what it is, what it’s for, or why they’re about to do it.  It makes me feel like an experimental animal.

No one warned me that I would have electrodes plastered all over my chest and torso.  They just whipped the covers off and said, “this will be cold.”  They clipped things on me, covered my hair and half of my eyeballs with a shower cap, slid things up my legs, and complained about their weekends.  I might have been half a side of beef being dressed by the butcher.  What callousness!  It’s like, doing their job for so long, they’ve forgotten that the cold, frightened creatures they handle are actually human beings.  And I do not accept for a moment that this is necessary to the performance of their duties.  It’s a lack.  I’ve seen it in all my jobs.  There are people who just do the job, totally absorbed in their own experience, and then there are people who take an extra interest in the people they are helping.  They take a moment to smile, to lend a hand, to explain, to help.  They treat the person they are dealing with as if they are a human being instead of a walking slab of meat.

I honestly have met real estate agents who treated people just like those nurses treated me.  I’ve met people at Hardee’s who treated the customers as much like cattle as the anesthesiologist did.  They do their job, sometimes competently, but they have no feeling in it.  They are only doing their duty.  They don’t care.  You couldn’t pay them to care.  And, to be honest, 99% of the time that I have found someone who treated others like people, they turned out to be a Christian.  I don’t think non-Christians realize how much worse their lives would be if it weren’t for the Christian doctors, lawyers, fast food managers, teachers, check-out girls, and real estate brokers that are seeded through our society like raisins in stale bread.

My doctor was one such Christian.  When he came to check on me before the operation, unlike the head anesthetist, he asked if there was anything I wanted to know.  He slid the hat back out of my eyes so I could see, and smoothed my forehead.  I told him I was nervous because no one had explained what would happen with the anesthesia.  I had seen the nurse in charge of me slip a loaded syringe in her pocket, but she didn’t say what it was, or what she intended to do with it.  This doctor, this busy man, got down on his knees beside my bed, and explained it to me.  He described the drugs and when they would be administered.  He told me for the first time that I would be intubated to keep air from building up in my stomach during the procedure, but that it would be removed before I woke up.  (No one ever told me I would be catherterized.  I wouldn’t have found out at all if I hadn’t vaguely heard the nurses noting it down in their charts as I came awake freezing and struggling in the recovery room.)

He didn’t mention the clear drug in the nurse’s pocket, and seemed quite surprised when they wheeled me into surgery, to find that she had given it to me.  “Just something to relax her,” the lady had chirped.  His forehead wrinkled up a little concernedly.  I think he and I both thought that was probably unnecessary.  I had been quite quiet and calm already.  I made a little joke, “I suppose it was to keep me from up and bolting when I saw all this machinery!”

The lights alone in the room looked like a small fleet of flying saucers tethered to the ceiling.  There were giant robotic machines that looked as if they could do surgery independently, and indeed, the doctor began describing the uses of one of them to distract me as we went through the indignity of transferring my wired and tubed body to the surgery table.  I was listening to what he was saying when his face changed to a frown of irritation.  I caught a glimpse of movement from the corner of my eye, a flash of familiar bright head covering,  and I blacked out.  Without warning me or waiting on the doctor’s approval, the lovely nurse anesthesiologist had doped me again.

The rest of my treatment was a blur of drug haze.  I faded in and out, always finding Neal there close to me, holding my hand, holding my drink, reading his book.  I know at least once I faded out in the middle of speaking.  My belly felt like I had been attacked by wasps.  The drug they gave me to help with the pain, on top of the morphine, on top of the knock out drugs, on top of the relaxer, made me see things whenever I closed my eyes.  I was having mild hallucinations about garden gnomes and pumpkins ripe and buried in sawdust.  I wandered up and down forest pathways.  When my eyes were open, I watched the second hand of the clock quite interestedly.  It was as good as many of the TV shows I’ve seen.  Excellent plot.

When I was a little more coherent, I managed to persuade Neal to leave me and get some food in the hospital cafeteria.  He found to his dismay that they only took cash, and was only able to afford an unspiced turkey burger and a drink, but he came back happier.  It had been almost eight hours since he’d eaten, and though he claimed he wasn’t hungry, I think the fact that he’d eaten half of my crackers showed something.  He doesn’t even like graham crackers.  But it was good window dressing for the nurses.  My mouth was so dry I couldn’t even swallow the crackers.  It was like spackle, sticking to all the crannies of my upper palate.  Even the ginger ale tasted dry, not like real water at all.  Like Alice my feet felt about a hundred feet away.  My hair had worked out of its braid, probably during my shivering fight in post-op.  The nurses said I was shaking so hard they could hardly control me.  They heaped me in heated blankets (the best thing about the hospital as far as I could see) and when I arrived at the room, Neal turned the room temp up to 80 until I thawed out.

And now I am back home, recovering on my third day.  The children are off at a friend’s, and I am considering putting on something other than pajamas today.  Woo-hoo!  Small graces, small mercies.  Thank you, every one of you, who prayed.




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