Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Human Experience of Surgery

As I wait in a Day Surgery room for the woman who will wheel my bed into the surgical suite, I hear John rattling the pages of the newspaper and Anne’s restlessness and then the two of them disagreeing about something or other. Not exactly a calming atmosphere. Finally I turn onto my side and pull the sheet up far enough so that it acts as a weak shield against their anxiety. Still, I cannot seem to get centered. With each of my prior four surgeries (ages 55-57), I was poised, self-contained, centered. Why can’t I get it together today? I couldn’t last night on the deck either. My sense about this being fine has flown the coop.

As I am being wheeled toward the surgical suite, I feel the burning of tears behind my closed eyelids. I kiss my family goodbye and as soon as they head to the waiting room I let the tears flow down hot against my cheeks. Still, I enjoy the incredible parking ability of this woman who expertly squeezes my bed into a narrow corral among five other beds.

Then I begin to cry – hard. What is this? I have never wept before one of my surgeries.  I heave with sobs and cover my face with the sheet. The nurses allow me my privacy.

But what it is with the anesthesiologist? I know they do best with unconscious bodies but what is so hard about having an authentic, non-patronizing conversation with a patient? He says things like, “In just a few minutes, I can start the IV fluid and your pain will be gone.” I tell him I am not in pain. Still, he repeats this a few minutes later. 

I alert him to my probable sleep apnea, and he notes that it is due to the relaxation of the soft tissues in the throat and neck. He is looking directly at me as he says this. I have inherited my mother’s jowls. Nonetheless he has decided not to intubate me during the surgery. Does he want me snoring on the table? Frightening unless he wants Halloween sound effects. Sure enough, he ended up intubating me but gashes my lip in the process.

I wake up in the recovery room to a wonderful nurse who has me making quarter-body turns every 15 minutes in order that the TB nugget my urologist has inserted reaches all areas of my bladder. This produces a shade of urine I’d call iris but you could call cobalt. 

My urologist stops by to talk to me and I listen intently to her. She ends by saying, “You won't remember this conversation,” and that becomes the only sentence I do remember. 

I  finally am recovered enough later that evening to go home. Pathology results next week. The waiting game continues. 

I am grateful that my daughter has “second parents” (our college friends who lived 20 minutes from her college campus) who love her dearly and will let her stay at their home in the Baltimore area for a long birthday weekend and love her up real good while I am recovering from surgery.

© Jean DiMotto, 2011     Website:

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