Monday, February 11, 2008
If I delay in telling you the news, it wouldn't be fair to all of you who said prayers and sent good wishes. MY WIFE is fine. The operation went well. Now I'll tell you all about the day. And you know me; I'll tell you ALL about the day.
(Before we go on, I suppose I should tell you that MY WIFE in no way resembles the person in that picture above. If Milton-Bradley had made the Operation person look like MY WIFE, they would have sold one heck of a lot more of those games to horny boys like me.)
Prior to the day of the operation, I had to tell people at work that I wouldn't be in for a couple of days. Getting the days off was easy, but explaining why I needed them was slightly problematic. As I've done here (and will continue to do) I danced around any actual details of the procedure. A quick "you know - women's stuff" was generally sufficient. It's fairly amazing as a conversation squelcher. Nobody, male or female, ever crosses that boundary unless they're invited. Even then, most folks don't have any overwhelming desire to go there.
MY WIFE's surgery was scheduled for 11:15, or so the paperwork in her possession said. The paperwork also said that she should arrive at the hospital no later than 90 minutes before the scheduled start. This meant 9:45. So, of course, she was ready to leave the house at 8:30, since we live a 15-minute drive from the hospital. For a woman who has spent the majority of her life in accounting positions, she has a surprising inability to do the math when it comes to time. When I pointed out to her that we would be at least an hour in front of schedule if we left now, she saw her mistake. We settled in and watched some TV for a bit. Once a reasonable time for leaving the house had arrived, we did so.
The parking garage attached to the hospital charges a gazillion dollars for anything over five minutes. Of course, if you're having an operation, they'll gladly validate your parking and then you only have to pay half a gazillion. Is it just me, or is this one of the most unethical scams in existence? People coming to a hospital generally have little choice in where to park. You can't just decide to park three blocks away in a cheaper garage when you have Uncle Elmer in a wheelchair. I mean, I'm all for folks making a decent buck. I'm not averse to capitalism. But how much does it cost to maintain a big cement block? I'm thinking that if you can fill it to capacity once a day, $5 a spot should cover it. I'd even be willing to spring for $10, just to keep out the riff-raff. But I'd say they can easily pay all of the workers in the garage, and do maintenance, from what they receive for, say, 100 of the spots, so the other 400 spots are pretty much pure profit, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. My quick math gives me a conservative estimate of $2,000,000 a year.
(OK, maybe one level is filled with vehicles belonging to doctors and nurses and other staff. Make it $1,000,000 - at the very least - siphoned from the pockets of patients and their loved ones. I think that's fairly much unconscionable.)
The instructions told us to go to the third floor to check in. We did. On the third floor, they told us that check-in was on the first floor. The instructions we were given were outdated, they said. This was not a good sign. If they can't get you to the check-in desk without making a mistake, it does not instill a large amount of confidence in their ability to cut you open, navigate around, and find the right stuff to work on.
Now that I've done some grousing, I'll tell you that everybody in the place - it was the Beth Israel Deaconess - was truly nice and helpful. They all did their jobs extraordinarily well. Despite the bitching above, the experience was generally quite pleasant. I was amazed at the level of good cheer being exuded. Perhaps everybody gets a cut of the parking fees.
A very jolly nurse escorted MY WIFE upstairs, telling me to wait downstairs until the time when she had been prepped for surgery. Someone would come down and get me, so that I might talk to her for the time between then and the operation.
While I was waiting, I looked around at all of the other people waiting. I wondered what hideous things they were facing that day. Surely some were there to have a wart excised or some other relatively minor procedure, but some folks were no doubt going to have vital organs worked on; perhaps even removed. I couldn't tell from the outward appearances. A few of the people looked a bit tired, but nobody was crying or otherwise pitching the sort of hissy fit I would have been if someone was scheduled to go inside of my body and rearrange the furniture. Perhaps everybody just had warts - or maybe they had found a better place to park.
After 20 minutes or so, a nurse came to take me upstairs. She was, like all of the other people in the place, cheery and helpful. I was led into a room where perhaps 10 or 12 people were waiting to be taken to the operating room. Everybody had their own partially-curtained area in which to wait. At the end of the left side of the room, MY WIFE was waiting on a gurney. She had been dressed in a johnny and given a saline solution IV plugged into her arm. We talked for only a minute before nurses and doctors started coming over to explain particulars and get waivers signed.
Again, they were all wonderfully reassuring and happy. The man actually performing the operation, Dr. Flesh (I'm not making that up), was upbeat and perky. I inquired as to the length of the operation, and was surprised to hear that the procedure itself would take only about 20 minutes. There would be 40 to 45 minutes of recovery time, after which I would be allowed to be with her again.
The attending nurse then came, and she was upbeat and perky. The anesthesiologist was much the same, although he did piss us both off slightly when, upon entering our area, he said, "Who's the smoker?" I volunteered that I was, and then he said, "Quit."
(MY WIFE knows that this pisses me off no end. No matter what you go to a hospital for - be it an ingrown toenail or broken arm or sprained knee - if you smoke, you receive a temperance lecture. She knows that this is one of the reasons I haven't had a physical in ages, so she was ticked at this guy for making it even harder for her to talk me into having one. For my part, I was just plain pissed. MY WIFE was the one having the operation, not me. However, knowing that MY WIFE would soon have her life in these people's hands, I held my tongue.)
The anesthesiologist said, "Well, I'm required to say that. Now that I've gotten it out of the way, here's what we're going to do...", and he proceeded to outline the many wonderful things he would inject and/or feed through a mask, provided MY WIFE didn't have this allergy or that past medical procedure or had plans to become a junkie in the weeks ahead.
The nurse asked MY WIFE if she'd like something to calm her down a bit before the procedure. Being no dummy, MY WIFE said yes. The nurse injected something of a mildly sedative nature into the IV line. After a couple of minutes, MY WIFE was pleasantly goofy. She started telling this nurse how the first nurse wasn't able to find a vein in which to insert the IV. MY WIFE said this was because she had "wiggly veins", so the site on her arm had swollen up like a "pong-pong ball." That was more than enough to let them know that she was half-dopey and ready to go.
Everybody politely turned their backs as we kissed, and then they wheeled her out. I was instructed to wait on the third floor of the adjoining building, where the doctor would come to see me after all was completed. As I was leaving the prep area, they wheeled MY WIFE down the hall, crossing my path to the other building. I started to wave, but she didn't see me. She had her eyes closed and was enjoying a pleasant conversation of some sort, smiling and laughing. She later told me that she didn't remember any of this stuff.
The first thing I did to pass the time was go to the hospital cafeteria. Since MY WIFE had been advised to not eat or drink anything since midnight of the night before, I had foregone a cup of joe in solidarity. Now I wanted one, badly.
I poured a tall one, added cream, and then looked for the sugar. I didn't see any. I took my coffee to the cashier, who was a large and rather sexy black woman. I asked her where I could get some sugar. She looked up from her register, closed her eyes, and then puckered her lips as though to offer me a kiss. It was very funny. I laughed. Then she opened her eyes and laughed with me. I told her that if MY WIFE wasn't at that very moment being operated on, I would have gladly reciprocated. She laughed some more, and then told me that the last person she had pulled that on had actually leaned in and tried to smooch her, so she had to tell him to back off. She said I looked like I was intelligent enough to know a joke when I saw it, so she decided to try it on me. It was just the right thing. It dispersed some nerves, bless her.
I took my coffee outside to have a smoke. It was cold, snowing, and windy. The immediate entrance to the hospital grounds was covered with big red and purple "No Smoking" signs. I really didn't have a problem with this at first, but then I found that I had to actually go all the way out to the public sidewalk and stand in the muck to puff. Entrance areas? No go. Nice little benches under awnings? Nope. Side areas where no one else seemed to be trafficking and which afforded some overhead cover? Uh-uh. There were eight benches by the sidewalk, and seven of them had "No Smoking" signs. The eighth, which was closest to the street, covered in snow, and in danger of being splashed from the puddles by oncoming traffic, had a tiny sign proclaiming it the "Designated Smoking Area." I had to wonder who's health they were trying to protect. It certainly wasn't mine.
My other way of passing the time was by reading. I had brought The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson, which is a great book, by the way, and you should buy it now. Unfortunately, waiting for someone to come out of an operating room is not conducive to being able to concentrate well enough to really enjoy reading. I found myself reading the same sentences four or five times before I absorbed them.
The doctor came striding through one of the doors. As soon as he made eye contact with me, he put on a big smile. Good man! I immediately knew that everything was OK. He told me much the same when he got to me. He said that they were letting MY WIFE sleep off the anesthesia and that I would be able to see her in 45 minutes or so.
I knew that was not the case. If they were letting MY WIFE sleep, I probably wouldn't see her for at least two hours. She would be more than happy to take the opportunity to nap. I'm the same way, so no complaints.
I was finally told that she was awake. It was almost three hours since she had gone into the operating room. I was escorted into the recovery room. MY WIFE sat there with a scowl on her face. There was some question concerning her having to perform a task before they would release her. If she couldn't perform the task to their satisfaction, she would have to be discomforted further with a device to wear home. She wanted none of it.
She is usually relentlessly cheerful around me. Well, relentlessly cheerful in a sort of pessimistic way, something like Groucho Marx. Now, however, I made some small jokes and tried to coax a smile or two, but she was pretty sour. It made me thankful for her usual self.
Long story short, she had to wear the device. She was not a happy camper. However, I can report that she removed it herself the following day, without a problem, and that was the end of it. And now she is doing just fine. Slight bit of swelling, but that was to be expected, and the Tylenol with Codeine seems to be taking care of the greater portion of any pain.
(I imagine that if I had done to me what she had done to her, I would have asked for Percocet, at the very least, and perhaps a Morphine drip, as well. I have always been of the opinion that you can't possibly overestimate pain.)
Again, thank you for your prayers and thoughts. All is basically well in Suldogland. I have a load of work to catch up on, so I'll probably not post again until Thursday or Friday. Until then...