Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tilting Horizons, Bariatric Humor, and Centipedes in the House

At 6:23 Wednesday morning, after a brief ride during which we discussed the finer points of my impending procedure, my aunt rolled into the parking lot of Sisters of Charity Hospital and remarked on how easy it is to find a good parking spot this time of day.  I was grateful for the short walk and looking forward to the long sleep I'd get to have once knocked out.  I hadn't gotten much sleep, and was still feeling jittery.  I was also thirsty as hell, not having been allowed to drink anything after midnight. 

I had been told that I needed to just go straight up to the surgical floor - number 5 - and not worry about stopping at admissions, but I did have to stop at security and be cleared first.  I gave the guard my name.  He looked down the list and found me, crossed off my name and called out, "good luck!" as I trotted up toward the huge entry door and made my way into the lobby. From previous experience I knew exactly where the elevators were, so I led my aunt toward them.  "This way, Aunt Margaret!  To the fifth floor!"

The elevator was already open, as if it had heard me coming.  We stepped in and my aunt pressed the button.  We didn't say much on the way up.  When we arrived at the surgery floor, there were already a few people in the waiting room and I wondered just how long I was going to have to sit there and read old magazines and stress about what I was about to undergo.  I gave the receptionist my name, my identification, and my insurance card, and thankfully after just a few minutes I was called back. My aunt came back with me and I was instructed to undress, put on a gown, and give a urine sample (which I dreaded, once again, seeing as I was seriously parched).  After a humorous fight with the gown (I mean, come on - can they really not find a better way to clothe patients in this day and age?) my aunt got me suited up and I slunk down to the restroom and managed to squeeze out enough pee to make the nurse happy.  In the meantime I made my aunt take this:

Does this gown make me look fat?

because...why not?  I have some other "before" photos that I took at home, but I wanted this one to plaster on my Facebook page; it said, "I'm here, bitches, and this is happening!"  I was satisfied.

Soon thereafter a nurse came in to tell me that a "transport" would be there shortly to take me down to OR prep, and all I could think of when she said "transport" was a flatbed truck, and I giggled at my own joke.  My aunt asked what was so funny.  "Nothing, just my own bariatric humor, " I answered.

A few minutes later the "transport" arrived in the form of a handsome young man who instructed me to lie flat on the bed.  I did as requested, and he pulled up the side bars and wheeled me out while my aunt kept up with a brisk pace behind us.  At the entrance of prep, he showed my aunt where she could wait and then wheeled me into the bright room filled with other people waiting for surgery.  We got to a "bay" and he began backing my bed up into the spot. I called out, "Beep...beep...beep!"  The Handsome Transport Guy made a kind of a low sigh, like he'd obviously heard this one before but wasn't sure how to react.  I looked over at the woman in the next bed and smiled.  She was obviously not a bariatric patient.  She was not amused.

The OR prep is a weird place.  You would think that a place where people are about to get knocked out, cut open, gutted, and sewn up is a little more serious, but this place was kind of a madhouse.  People running this way and that, drinking coffee, greeting each other cheerily, laughing, making jokes.  The next forty-five minutes were a strange blur of nurses, nurses' aides, anesthesiologists, doctors, and more nurses.  I was stuck with an IV port, had blood drawn, and was asked a whole bunch of questions that I'd already been asked.  The thing that struck me as odd, however, was that no one ever put me on a scale that morning.  The anesthesiologist, a jovial guy named Paul who, when I said, "Hi," answered, "Not yet, but you will be in a minute!" asked me, "what is your current height and weight?"  That's when it occurred to me that no one had weighed me there.  Luckily I'd weighed myself that morning so I told him what my scale at home had said.

Out of nowhere it felt like everyone had disappeared all at once except for the woman in the bed next to mine and a guy across the room.  The guy was by himself, but the woman next to me had her medical team there.  Then suddenly I saw a black blob scuttle out from under her bed and into the middle of the room.  Since I didn't have my glasses on I couldn't see what it was, but I knew it was something alive.  I watched it as it ran to the other side of the room and under an instrument tray or something (I can't see very well sans specs) and waited to see if anyone else had noticed.   Apparently they hadn't.  I waited to see if it would reappear.

I was loopy tired, I knew that, but I wasn't on painkillers or anesthesia yet, so I knew I wasn't hallucinating.  At least I hoped I wasn't.  Although...a monstrous insect in the surgery prep room in the hospital isn't exactly something you WANT to be real.  I watched it scoot back out toward the middle of the room, and this time the guy across from me saw it, too.  I pointed at it, and nurses and doctors and aides just kept scurrying back and forth not noticing it, and somehow it managed to dodge all those Danskos racing around it.  Finally a surgeon noticed it and stopped.

"Hey, look!" he said, pointing down at the floor.  A nurse came over and looked at it and said, "Ew! What is it?"  The surgeon said, "some kind of centipede.  It has a lot of legs."  And with that, he walked away.  The guy across from me and I looked at each other with a kind of mutually incredulous expression, and I thought, "you're a surgeon.  Surely you dissected one or more of these things back in the day, no?"  The bug stayed put while more people walked around it, pointed, and said, "ew!"  And yet no one seemed all that keen on actually getting rid of the fucking thing.  Finally I spoke up.  " anyone going to, you know...kill it?  Because...hey, I love all living things but this is a hospital, and know."  It was a wishy-washy approach, but I was tired and I just wanted to get in that OR and get out and not have nightmares about big black centipedes getting sewn up in my belly.  I thought it was a reasonable request.

Finally a nurse said, "Oh, I'll take care of it.  Let me get a tissue."  She went over to the desk, grabbed a tissue, came back, and stepped on the bug with an audible "squitch."  Gross.  Then when she lifted her foot to wipe the bug's guts off the floor, they were stuck to her shoe instead, and she had to remove her clog and bang it on the floor to remove the remains.

I shuddered, but didn't have long to be grossed out because a few seconds later my surgeon approached me in his suit and tie with my surgical team trotting along behind him.  Dr. Caruana took my hand in his and held it tightly.  "How are you doing?" he asked.  I told him I felt good and was looking forward to getting started.  He asked how I'd done on the Liver Reduction Diet and I told him I'd done well, and he smiled.  "That's wonderful; I'm always happy to hear that.  I'm going to get changed, and in just a few minutes, I'll meet you in there, okay?"  I felt tears spring up into my eyes and I nodded.  Paul the jolly anesthesiologist rubbed my foot, and Dr. C said, "You're going to be just fine, Deanna.  Just fine."  Even still, I felt very small and alone at that moment.

The brakes were kicked out from my gurney's wheels and I was taken into a cold, bright room.  I couldn't believe how cold it was in there.  I started shivering immediately and then a couple pairs of hands moved me from my gurney to a table and adjusted me.  I was instructed to place my arms out to the side, and then covered with several warm blankets.  At this point a clear plastic mask was placed on my face, and the nurse said, "just breathe.  This is just oxygen.  Just breathe."  I breathed in the oxygen and imagined that this was the part where the horizon tilted.  Everything was at a 45-degree angle, and the ground got further and further away until I heard the familiar "ka-thunk" of the wheels being retracted into the belly of the plane.  I watched as faces whizzed past me, as voices called out various commands, felt the pressure of the warmed, heavy blankets on top of me, and then...

..."Deanna?  Ms. Clohessy?  You're finished! You're in recovery now.  Your surgery is all done.  Wake up, Deanna!"

And just like that.  It was over.


  1. You are an amazing writer! :) I am getting sleeved soon and I just found your blog on accident. I'd just like to you remember anything about them taking the breathing tube out, or was that all done by the time they woke you up?

  2. Hi Amanda! Thanks so much! I don't remember anything at all. I just woke up and there I was, sleeved and very, very groggy, LOL. My throat was a little sore from the tube, but everything was out by the time I woke up.

    Your surgery will be fine! Thanks for reading - I'm glad you found me!!