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June 10, 2002

I escaped, don't pay the ransom!

I started to try to write something yesterday, but just couldn't. Today I have a bit more energy, but rather than comment on any national events, I'll just tell about my surgery. I promise it won't be boring.

Now, by no means do I think my surgery is in any way as serious as others people have had. A good friend just went though a biopsy that makes mine look like a minor hangnail. But it was my first under general anesthesia. Several years ago I had something removed from my neck with a local. It was tedious laying still while the doctor scraped away, so I figured this one would be easier. Oooh boy was I wrong.

First of all they led me to a curtained area and had me strip and put on the infamous opened back "gown". Really, what's the point with that thing? A blanket would work better and at least not look as silly. At least I was on my back the whole time so there was no walking around with everything showing. They told us to be there at 9am so my wife and I arrived, and when I was "properly" attired for the surgery my wife was allowed to sit next to me. Then came the first part of the anesthesia, which consisted of having us sit there for an hour. Put me right to sleep. Worked great, except when people kept waking me up to ask silly questions like, "Are you comfortable?" I was asleep, doesn't that tell you anything?!? The anesthesiologist showed up after about 45 minutes. A bubbly jolly fellow, and why shouldn't he be, he knows darn well what he's not about to face. He asked more of the exact same questions the previous 63 nurses had asked on their consecutive visits to wake me up. Why these people don't write anything down, I'll never figure out. One smart thing he did was to take out an ink pen and put an "X" on the foot to be operated on. Well, on the surface that seems like a pretty smart idea, but I kept wondering what kind of medical professional depends on an inked "X" to determine which organ needs surgery? Since I have exactly the same condition on both feet the "X" wasn't really all that important, if the right foot had been operated on by mistake, it would have just changed the order of the surgeries. Now if the purpose was to make sure they operated on the foot rather than any other organ that happened to laying about, well [shudder] let's not thing about that.

Finally they wheeled me into the operating room. The first thing that hit me when we entered it was an icy blast of sub zero wind. They had that thing cold, and I mean ICE cold. I wouldn't have been surprised at all to see penguins playing in the corner "Kinda cold in here, isn't it?" (Sometimes, I like stating the obvious). "We keep it that way to keep down infection and because all the surgical masks, gloves and things the doctors wear can get hot." Ok, made sense. Who was I to argue. One thing I've noticed about hospitals is they seem to have an abundant supply of piping hot blankets. They keep them that way to wrap around people. They stretched my arms out and put some across me as our jolly anesthesiologist was placing that clear mask over my nose. He said it was just oxygen, but the very next thing I heard him say was, "OK, we're all done, can you scoot back over to the gurney." 

Now at this point my perception of reality was that of being under dark muddy water and popping part of my head out, just enough to register a few, momentary sensory inputs. He could have said, "Ok, let's shoot all these innocent bystanders." and I probably would have been just as compliant. The next time I surfaced I was again in some curtained off area, but this time the sensory inputs had increased to include nausea and an incredibly annoying beeping sound to my left. The beeping sound turned out to me an oxygen monitor, a broken oxygen monitor if you ask me, because if I took a really deep breath (something that will momentarily alleviate nausea) the beeping would stop, but about the time I'd get relaxed, long before I felt I needed to take another breath, the beeping would start again. Then there was the next sensory input, that of my wife poking me on the shoulder telling me to breath. Several years ago I had to do a test for seizure activity and one of the tests they made me do was forced hyperventilation. They told me to breath as deeply and as quickly as I could until they told me to stop. If you've never done this before, and you're into serious torture, you might try it (consult your doctor first) Several things happen at once, you get light headed, then your body politely tells you that that's enough, with a sort of intense sickening feeling. As you continue your body gets annoyed and sends the message to you again, only this time not so politely. By the time the technicians/nurses/whatever-the-heck-they-were told me to stop, my body was fairly screaming at me. Well in the recovery room, that's what was happening again. I was caught in this nightmare, balancing between trying to breathe deep enough to keep the beeper from going off (and the inevitable spousal pokage, thereof) and trying to not breathe too deep so my body wouldn't scream at me, which it did anyway. So here I was already groggy from the anesthesia, having to breathe deep, which made me light headed, and then having my body scream at me with that sickening feeling (generally accompanied by cold sweat) only to have the beeper go off, followed by the faithful finger poking at my arm accompanied by my wife's insistent pleading that I breathe deeper.

Well, that nightmare finally came to and end when I woke up enough to rip the stupid oxygen monitor off my finger. Then came the next grand surprise. One of the questions the 68 nurse and the anesthesiologist kept asking was if I have asthma. I told them yes, because if I'm in the right situations my lungs will get quickly congested. The key there is that I'm careful to not get in those situations. They would ask if I use an inhalers, which of course I don't so they pretty much dismissed the asthma thing. Except almost immediately after the surgery I recognized that, indeed, that was one of those situation that aggravate asthma. So, since Friday I've been battling lung congestion which feels like I have a serious chest cold. I am now convinced the new ingredient in modern anesthesia has to be flem, since that's the only explanation for how it all got down in there.

Well, I've taken up quite a bit of space, so I'll wait until tomorrow to tell you about the rest of the day (What you didn't go straight to bed and rest? Heh heh heh, if only)


Posted by Jack Lewis at June 10, 2002 03:33 PM