Anesthesia and Grace

Grace loves bunnies. And surgery.
Yesterday I had surgery. I think. I don't remember much. And I can't actually see my back, which is where the doctor surgery-ed (I just made that word up, aided by Percocet). Can you see your back? If you can, your head's on backwards, and you need to get that fixed. Or perhaps you use a mirror to see your back, an intelligent manipulation of a reflective tool for which I commend you. Because I rarely look at my back, even using a mirror (all the twisting and grunting that it requires somehow makes me feel really vain), I can't be totally sure the doctor actually surgery-ed me. But, using my law school-sharpened analytic skills, I infer from the fact that I'm in pain and I can't walk  that something very likely happened back there while I was anesthetized.

I had been instructed to arrive at the surgical center at 5:00 a.m. It was dark. The fish in the office aquarium were still asleep. The freeway cams on the morning news traffic report were showing black, blank pavement. The doctor had instructed me to arrive wearing "easy-on/easy-off clothing." So I wore a bathrobe with nothing under it, because one tug and -- tah dah! -- you're ready for the hospital gown.

Just kidding. I wore sweats with a hole in the butt, a hoody, and black socks with Birkenstocks. I think I would've been less embarrassed wearing the bathrobe.

After I checked in, I got weighed. Every time you go to a doctor's office they always weigh you with your clothes on. I guess I see why they do that -- "professionals" already look at your private parts enough at the hospital. But, seriously, don't we all actually weigh three pounds less than we do with our clothes on? In a society plagued by obesity, can't the medical community help us out a little? Subtract a few pounds from what the scale says. Everybody wins. Except Mary-Kate Olsen. Leave her clothes on, please.

Then the lady tells me to take off my clothes and put on the hospital gown when she leaves the room. No problem, right? But then she points to a marker on top of the paper towel dispenser and tells me to draw an "X" on my back on the side the doctor is supposed to cut on. Does this concern anyone else? In this, the 21st century, an epoch in which we're blessed with robotic car washes, instant streaming of the royal wedding to locations worldwide, cures for smallpox and polio, machines that take pictures of your bones while they're still inside you, and Angry Birds, this is how we communicate to doctors where they're supposed to cut a person open? A black "X" drawn by the patient himself? Trust me, people, I spent 5 entire minutes double and triple and quadruple and quintuple checking where I was drawing that freaking "X," holding my hands up in front of me again and again to see which one made an "L," and then double and triple and quadruple checking that to make sure I wasn't going dyslexic at a really, really inopportune time.

After dressing, I laid down on a hard bed. The nurse sat down beside me and caressed my hand with gauze, keeping up an endless stream of chatter. Why is she telling me about her dog in such great detail? I wondered. So your husband loves running in the mountains. Big deal, I thought. Seriously, the woman had to have been inhaling occasionally, because that is a prerequisite to being alive, but I couldn't identify when she was doing it. Then, without warning, she stopped mid-blabber and said "1-2-3 stick!" And she said it in under a second, so it wasn't like she was counting, like "One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand stick!" It was super fast. And then she shoved a little tube into the big vein on my hand. I'd been duped! Hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Swindled! Conned! Sigh.

After she'd inflicted pain on me, the nurse wasn't interested in talking anymore, so she left. She said the doctor would come in a half-hour. I examined my room. Curtains. Surrounding my hard bed on three sides. Behind me there may have been neat medical thingies, but I thought if I got up to look then my hospital gown would come open and my butt would burst forth and it would be hard to get the gown on right again, so I just laid there. There was a huge vent opening directly above my bed with a large duct curving away into the ceiling. I noted that the opening and the duct were easily wide enough for a human soul. I wondered if there was one above every bed, ready to suck the spirits from the people the anesthesiologist accidentally killed, and whisk those souls to the afterlife

The anesthesiologist entered my curtains sometime later and pulled up a stool. I sized him up distrustfully, my eyes darting from him to the ceiling vent and back. Murderer, I thought. He said he'd whipped up something nice for me to suck on, then he made a motion like he was smoking weed. He laughed. How much does this guy make again? Dude, I left the weed jokes in high school (I didn't really, but let's pretend I did); shouldn't you? All I'm saying is that if i made like a thousand dollars a minute like this guy does, I would at least make like I was professional. I suddenly feared for my life, but, reasoning that he would probably win in a fight if I jumped him right there, and that even if I won and made a dash for the exit I would still be standing outside on a busy city street at rush hour in a hospital gown with my butt showing, I signed the stupid paper that said it was okay if he killed me and the vent sucked my soul to Hades.

They wheeled me to the operating room. The wicked anesthesiologist plugged a new tube into my IV. He smiled. I scowled. I grew impossibly drowsy, and then nurses were shaking me awake, offering me crackers and pudding. Is this heaven? I thought. (Look, I'm pretty easy to please. If all they have in heaven is crackers and pudding, I'll be just fine there. I don't need a stupid harp). I faded in and out of dream state for at least an hour. I saw my kids playing at the foot of my hospital bed. "Be careful, Smokey," I croaked through my surgical tube-scratched throat. Then I woke up, and no one was there except a nurse, who smiled at me the way one would smile at a toddler.

She asked me questions and I responded very slowly, fighting through the fog to find vocabulary words. "I... Yes! I think...wait. Did you...did you...say...pudding? Mmmmm...putty." The nurses seemed to enjoy my stupor. They called me "Buddy" (as in, "Easy, buddy, left foot, right foot, ooh you look kind of pale, bad to bed, buddy!") and "Mr. Sleepy" (as in, "Hello, Mr. Sleepy! Your wife is here to see you!" [Me: "Who?"]).

The real hero of the day was Grace, pictured above, who held my hand on my first very slow full lap around the recovery room, led me very slowly to the car after release, and napped with me while I drowsily slept off the rest of the anesthesia at home. With friends like that, who needs pets?