in which the author passes another milestone only to thumb her nose at it, wonders about things along the way and yes, it did kinda hurt…
Contrary to what SOME people think — and you know who you are — there are times I do follow instructions. Like when I was instructed to call the hospital after 3 p.m. to get the time to be at the hospital for surgery. I did it: called at precisely 3:00:01 p.m. EST, very pleased with myself that I was following instructions. That pleasure lasted five seconds.
My phone line gave the secret password to the hospital’s telephone lines which got the green electronic door opened so that I could key the extension number of the pre-op department, which then gave me a free pass straight into voice mail hell. And not one with a sexy voice either.
Imagine a voice coming out of a woman (who I am SURE is a wonderful volunteer) with puckered-up lips and a voice tight from years of shallow breathing, doing her best to sound bright and cheery just like her mother taught her to do when telephones were first invented. That was the voice I listened to through the seven options — TWICE — because it’s not like the messages are made to be clearly understood.
On the second round I got it and pressed the number I was instructed to press. All I got was ringing. And ringing.
My jaw clenched just as I was about to talk to myself about the patience I am trying to cultivate in this lifetime, but a Voice intervened. Not the Voice of God, Goddess or any of the angels. Not the Voice of hello, either. It was the Voice of Bored mixed with Frustration. A Voice all of us members of the general public get to hear from those places that are supposed to serve the public.
“Are you calling for the time you’re to be here for your surgery?” asked Voice.
“Yes,” I said.
I told Voice the doctor’s name, and kept my voice slow, calm, low, precise.
I gave Voice my name.
“Be at the admitting office at 11 o’clock,” said Voice, and then the line went dead.
If you say the word VOICE slowly, doesn’t it sound like a very weird word?
And so to the hospital
Morning of the surgery and I had to do as instructed yet again. No water, no espresso, no food.
The weather wasn’t cooperating. Snow. Couldn’t I just close my eyes and when I wake up it’ll at be done? I tried. Didn’t work.
I wasn’t going to the hospital alone, thank goodness. My Watcher took the day off. Inside the admitting department where, like the ice cream place, I took a number (13, in case you’re wondering; no word of a lie). As I unzipped my jacket, my number was called. At the window the clerk read out all my information for me to confirm or deny, and then told me to hold out my right arm. I did and she put on a hospital wrist band and mumbled something about where to go next. I wanted to tell her where to go, too, but instead asked her to repeat what she said. I listened and like a good girl — twice this year so far — did what I was told and up we went to where I was supposed to go.
Day surgery waiting room. It was packed. Four people in gowns with the IV drips in. Everyone else waiting to be called in to get undressed and get their IV drip. Different dress, different languages. All faces with the same worried look.
I had to use the washroom, and when I found it, learned the hard way that it must have at one time been for children. You know how you give your legs enough power to lower yourself to the point you think you want to sit at, but that the height is actually LOWER than that and you land down with a thump? Uh-huh. Like that. A very close-to-the-floor toilet. Any other day, I would have laughed. I zipped up my pride and hobbled out of there to wait some more.
In time my name was called. A woman who looked like a little mini-linebacker escorted me to a room with beds, patient as I walked slowly with my healing ankle.
“My name is Maureen,” she said. “I’m a nurse. I’ll take your blood and give you your IV.” I saw her fangs and wondered about the evolutionary path of vampires.
“Take my blood?” I asked. “I gave seven vials last week.”
“The doctor wants your hemoglobin checked. Do you have any allergies?”
I told her and for that I got another wristband, this one with a red stripe on it.
She gave me two transparent bags. “Put your cast and boot in one and clothes in the other,” she said. Then she held up a rather dull powder blue cloth thingy. “This is the gown. Put it on, open at the back.”
She held up another garment, same colour as the first one but striped. “This is the robe. Put it over the gown.”
She handed me something else. “These are for your feet,” she said. They were papery things with elastic around an opening for feet of any adult size.
“Undress completely,” she said. “Even your panties.”
I sighed. She left. I got undressed. Put the air cast and boot in one bag, clothes in the other.
As I was sitting there waiting for her to come back, I spied a pen in the basket full of sharps. I stood up on my good leg reached WAAY over and took it. Then, I lifted the left side of the ersatz robe and gown and wrote on my left calf over my left ankle, CUT HERE and drew a few arrows pointing to it. TO ensure that there would be NO mistake, I made an addendum: REMOVE BIG SCREW ONLY higher up on my calf. I put the pen back and waited for Maureen.
Now let it be known I am not a fan of needles. I am not afraid of them, I just don’t like them. So when Maureen put the rubber tourniquet above my right elbow to make my veins pop, and all my veins went YIPING! deep into my body, I knew it was not going to be fun. She started to lightly slap at my inner elbow with her two fingers. I reached to stop her hand. She looked surprised.
“Try my left side,” I said. She did. It worked. I closed my eyes to the waves of cold hitting my body with each tube she took. And then the IV drip. The tourniquet was applied lower, making the vein along my forearm pop…and she slipped in the needle. I registered the stinging as the cool liquid made contact, but my attention was outside. I wondered how big and fat the snowflakes were that I saw flutter by the window.
I wondered why, with all the research evidence coming out about how no two people feel anything the same way and that there are actually different level of sensitivity to the same touch, how come some bloodletting has yet to have a process and practice change?
“You can go back to the waiting room. They’ll call you when it’s time for your surgery.”
I hobbled back to the waiting room, navigating with my cane and pushing the IV pole in front of me, catching up to it, then pushing it ahead again. It took me a good five minutes to get back to the big waiting room. I sat down beside my Watcher, shivering. She put my coat and pashmina over me and said a few words about not giving me a wheelchair. Then my name was called and it was time to go into the next waiting room. The other three patients were way ahead of me, and the nurse and Watcher agreed I needed a wheelchair. I was shivering too much to care much about anything: my bones were freezing.
The new waiting area was at least warmer. The IV was still stinging. I was working on deep breathing and mindfulness. My name was called again. It was time.
Nurse “Hi my name is Steve” wheeled me to the hallway with all the operating rooms. We chatted. He looked at my charts. Looked at me, and back at my chart. “Healthy lady,” he said.
I noticed he had a HUGE circle of coloured glass in his right earlobe. And a beautiful smile.
“I’d like to have the screw that’s being taken out,” I said.
“We can’t. Hospital policy, something to do with infection.”
“Oh boo. I really wanted it.”
He wheeled me into the operating room and helped me on to the table.
He checked my vitals again…my blood pressure is normally in the 97/60 range…low. It was up to 118/62.
“I’m a bit nervous,” I said. “Can I talk to Dr. C? I have some questions.”
Steve said he’d try to find him. The doctor responsible for the anaesthesia came in and introduced himself. I do not remember his name at all because all I could see was the bunch of syringes in his hand.
“Am I going to be conscious when Dr. C. comes in?”
“Yes,” said the anesthesiologist.
Then my arms were placed on little slabs that jutted out from the table. I felt like I was going to be lifted onto the stone slab of sacrifice. Sensors were placed on my body to monitor … vital sign stuff: they were cold. A warm thin blanket was draped over me. Something with weight was placed over my midriff, catching just at my hip bones. I thought it felt and looked like the huge wrestling belt award….and that was the last thing I remember.
I woke up in recovery with an oxygen mask and started to take it off. A nurse appeared out of nowhere.
“Leave it on,” she said gently. “You aren’t breathing right.”
Okay so I was dizzy and dopey, but I did NOT want to stay there one second longer than I had to. I started my deep breathing practice. Wow is it ever weird to try to do mindful breathing when your eyes cross and you can’t think straight.
I don’t know how long I did that for, but she sat by my bedside, watching a screen I couldn’t see. “Do you need anything for pain?” I nodded yes.
In a little while my eyes focused, I was breathing properly, my blood pressure back to normal. I was wheeled out of recovery to another room, to another, less nice nurse who told me that according to the doctor I can not do ANYTHING physical until I see him again in two weeks and to keep my foot raised.
“Don’t stay in bed. Don’t get the bandages wet, ” she said, handing over the papers. I wondered who peed in her corn flakes.
Then it gets a bit fuzzy. I don’t actually remember getting dressed or leaving the hospital or coming home and being brought inside.
The setback in my recovery is unpleasant. Lucky me I get to do NOTHING for two weeks. (And you KNOW that’s not a good thing.) So I will be ranting here and there and maybe just about everywhere.
And now that it is all just about done, a word to all you who are wiser than me: do not break your ankle.
It isn’t fun.