Friday, July 4, 2014

Awake During Major Surgery—Part 2

Fernando wheeled my gurney to the operating room hallway.  Here, people to go into help with surgeries were putting on hats and such.  Two patients in their gurneys were in a line in front of me.  I heard a new person brought up behind me.   I might have been nervous about placing my life in doctors’ hands, but these were no random people to work on me.  They were a team who had performed this surgery at least 1,500 times.   I trusted them. 

Two really nice O.R. nurses came over and introduced themselves to me.  Soon, the doctor I had been wanting to meet for days approached me and introduced himself.  This was my anesthesiologist.  I felt the conversation about how I wished to remain awake should have occurred days prior, but better late than never.  Surprisingly to me, there was to be no discussion.   

He came up to me and laid it out. “I’ll give you an epidural.  Epidurals don’t work in 15% of patients.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to give you a general, which will put you out.  I’ll give you a sedative soon to calm you down.”   

I felt clam and said, “I don’t want a sedative.” 

“You’ll start freaking out when you can’t feel your feet.”

“No, I won’t.  It will mean I can’t feel the operation and I’m fine with that.  I also don’t want any amnesiacs.  I want to remember.”

“Absolutely not.  I’m giving you the sedative and it WILL make you forget and that’s that.  You will not be able to lie quiet.  You’ll talk.  It’s a four hour surgery.  You won’t be able to handle it that long.”

“Yes, I will.  I had my anal sphincter sewn and a vaginal hematoma that had burst  without any pain killers at all.  No local or general anesthesia.  I had to lie still for two hours and fifteen minutes with my feet in stirrups!  I watched every bloody stitch and listened to him talking to the woman about how to sew a pelvic floor correctly.  Also, I had surgery recently. (As an outpatient.) I didn’t like not remembering and the drugs made me talkative, yet I didn’t know what I was saying.  Please.  I’m calm.  I can handle it.  I want to stay awake.”

It’s really quite unfair that a consumer who knows herself better than any of these strangers can’t be heard, I thought, hoping that he would allow me to be awake to see the disease, my tormenter for close to a year, leave my life.  Nurse Beverly had been on the phone with him the night before…He had called her…She had told him about my good spirits and I had told her I planned to be awake.  She might have told him, which may be why he was so ready for me with reasons why I needed to be drugged further than an epidural.  I lay there wishing he had chosen to get to know me better.  I can guarantee anyone that if I have a physical body to autopsy when this lifetime is over, my spirit will be standing close by observing!

People came for various gurneys.  Mine was wheeled into Operating Room A.  I saw a camera up on the ceiling, which would make the picture on the screen face from feet to head.  Odd, usually when I see my abdomen, I am looking down the direction of head to foot.  The hands that I would see on the left of the screen would really belong to a surgeon standing on my right.  The operating table I moved over to was thinner.   I had to lie on my left side as the anesthesiologist did the epidural.  Then, I rolled onto my back with my gown raised up to just beneath my breasts.  A nurse placed sticker things on my breasts and chest area going under my gown.  I was pleased that I was not exposed.  That made me feel respected and therefore, safer.

The screen off to my right up high on a wall came on pretty quickly.  On it, I saw my naked upper legs, private area and tummy.  Me in my thigh high tights and then stark naked made my Vegas joke all the more real.  Oh, my!  I thought.  I look like a show girl!  As the nurse prepared the area for surgery by cleaning me with three different solutions, I could feel the pressing in a distant kind of way.  After applied, the yellow, orange, and black ointments were wiped clean. 

The anesthesiologist moved the table to place the camera on my tummy only, so I lost the view of how they draped me and possibly placed a blanket over my legs. He put the brakes of my operating table on as a nurse was preparing my right arm.  I was as a religious prisoner of the Romans.  My right arm was out as if I was on a cross, cradled in this green foam.  Then it was covered.  I don’t think any gadgets hooked up to that arm.  The other arm was also straight out, but on a flat thing that came out of the table.  The anesthesiologist placed a catheter in my wrist.  Here, he gave any drugs he felt I needed.  I know I was hooked up at my chest, but I don’t know where else.  I knew a urinary catheter had been put into me, but don’t know when it was done.  (That was to come out on Tuesday.)  A blue sheet was being raised to create a space in which the surgeons would work, blocking my direct view of them.

I saw my surgeon behind me to my left and said, “Good morning.”  I think he grumbled a good morning, but clearly did not want to talk.  I wanted to tell him my hemoglobin was no longer 10.8.  I had told Beverly at any rate.  I was surely no worse that 9.3.  No matter.  Months earlier, when I was 6.8 and contemplating a Myomectomy where significant blood loss occurs, a drop in hemoglobin would have been significant.  With this surgery, I would lose hardly any. 

On the screen, I saw two clamps with teeth placed on my tummy, below my belly button, on both sides.  I felt nothing, so looked to my left to the anesthesiologist and had a frown conveying, Nope, I don’t feel it.  Next, I watched on the screen as the surgeon drew a line from my belly button down to my pubic bone.  Then what seemed close to my hips, he drew a horizontal line.  Soon, I had five purple vertical lines and two twelve centimeter horizontal lines in an elliptical shape. 

Then the laser.  I could smell my skin burning as he cut an oval.  The skin was thrown away.  The first of what I came with that I would soon be leaving without.

Songs from his i-Pod played over the loud speaker—like Five for Fighting.  I constantly checked to see if I could remember what just happened and what song was playing.  No amnesiacs, yet! 

It had begun…                                                                               

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