Oregon - Part III


Continued from Oregon - Part II

“Hi there, I’m Dr. S, I’ll be your anesthesiologist,” said a cheerful man with a red bandana tied around his head, as he walked through the curtains beside my hospital stretcher.

I eyed him suspiciously as he procedeeded to go through a list of routine questions with me. For some reason he just didn’t look like a doctor. Looking at his bandana and sideburns, it was somehow easier to picture him in a tie dye shirt than to see him in blue scubs. The thought of Dr. R being very selective with his surgical team reassured me to a certain extent. However, I was still apprehensive about going under general anesthesia. My hands clutched nervously at my hospital gown, even though this would be my third time on the “butcher table", as my sister would say.

“Have you got any questions for me?” asked Dr. S.

“Yeah, you know, I watched this...I meant I heard about this lady patient whose IV tube got disconnected from the anesthetics mid-surgery,” I rattled on, watching ever so closely for his reaction. “Her doctors didn’t even notice until the surgery was over. She was in horrific pain but was completely paralyzed and unable to communicate..." I felt increasingly apprehensive, while recalling a graphic episode of the popular TV show Nip Tuck.

Dr. S rolled his eyes while the nurses tried unsuccessfully to stifle their giggles. I was beginning to wonder if they were Nip Tuck fans...

“Any other question?” he said, shaking his head.

“Well...yeah, um...have you been doing this for a long time?”

“Honey, I am sooooo old.” He chuckled and reached for the bag of IV.

And those were the last words I remember.

* * *

When I came to in the recovery room many hours later, I was shivering and feeling considerable pain. There seemed to be a soft moaning coming from a distance...it took a few moments to register that it was actually coming from me. As I slowly lifted my heavy eyelids and tried to reorient myself, it was déjà-vu...like waking up from anesthesia after my previous surgeries. I remained in a disorienting state of semi-wakefulness as the nurses carted me to my room.

During the next 15 hours or so, my body seemed torn between competing subconscious wills—one wanted to stay asleep so as to escape from the pain, the other wanted to wake up and feel alive again. It felt odd to be at the complete mercy of narcotics blocking the transmission of pain through millions of synapses in my brain. While grateful for the analgesia, I felt troubled by the loss of control over my body and mind. One moment I would be awake and literally the next I would fall into oblivion at a turn of my head.

Finally, as the third shift of nurses checked in, a resurgent lucidity began to dissolve the drug-induced fog in my head. I slowly got out of bed and took the first tentative step. The whole room spun. After many more wobbly attempts at regaining my balance, I finally felt the spinning slowing down and gradually coming to a standstill.

Tethered to and holding onto the rolling IV stand, I fumbled towards the door that seemed unreachable. As much as the bed looked inviting, I knew from experience that the sooner I regained my coordination the sooner I would be on my way home.

With the help of my sister and my nurse, I staggered back and forth in the silent hallway, trying to regain control of my muscles. A young nurse holding a platter of food passed by us with a friendly smile and went into one of the rooms.

“Well, good morning sir! Are we ready for some breakfast?” Her cheery voice was clearly audible from the hallway.

An old man was mumbling something but I could not make out what he was saying.

“What?” exclaimed the nurse, her melodic chuckle reverberating throughout the hallway. “You want your teeth?! OK. Let me see if I can find them for you, hang on!”

My sister and I looked at each other and smiled. Suddenly I felt grateful...at least I still had all my teeth.

* * *

“They look beautiful,” said Dr. M, Dr. R’s assistant, after examining my surgical incisions. “Now, do you need more pain meds before I send you back home?”

“Yeah, I’m almost out.”

“What are you on, Percocet?”

“No, I’m on Vicodin. I took Percocet before and had a lot of nausea. Better to stay on Vicodin? What’s the difference between the two anyway?”

“Well...” Dr. M looked thoughtful for a moment as she searched for an explanation in layman terms. “They are like...um...broccoli and cauliflower. Here, this should tide you over until the pain becomes manageable,” she said while handing me a new prescription.

“Thank you."

“You take care, hope we don’t have to see you here again.”

“I certainly hope we never see each other again...” I said with a deep sigh.

Dr. M chuckled as we shook hands.

* * *

With a prescription for broccoli (or was that cauliflower?) in hand, I embarked on the journey of the rest of my life, praying for an endless open stretch of road and sunny skies from this moment on...