Monday, February 18, 2008

Under the bone saw, part two

The anesthesiologist and the intern went away, leaving BF and I to wait some more. I looked up at the clock and tried not to get nervous. He held my hand. Then, the intern came back and apologetically asked me one of the questions I had already been asked. Hey, at least they're thorough. I answered him and he left again.

A few minutes later, a nurse clad in operating room scrubs and one of those surgical shower caps came into the room to get me.

Nurse: Hi, Bella. It's time for you to go to the operating room. I'll be with you the whole time.
Bella: In that case [holding her hand up]...pre-surgery high-five!
Nurse: Uh...okay [high-fives Bella back and laughs.]

I turned to BF and gave him a big hug and kiss. I told him I'd see him soon and that I hoped he had fun doing whatever he was going to do for the next two-and-a-half hours. He walked one way, and I followed the nurse in the other direction. Neither of us turned our backs - we watched each other walk away. Just as we were about to leave through our separate doors, BF stopped and said, "Merde!"

I gave him a quizzical look, then burst into huge smile. I sometimes forget that he used to work professionally in the theatre.

"Merde!" I called back at him.

Well, that's one thing I didn't expect to be yelling across a surgical waiting room right before I went under the bone saw. But whatever works, right?

The nurse took me down the hallway and pointed to a bed outside the operating room. "That's your bed," she said."Oh, okay," I responded and sat down on it, preparing to lie down.

"Oh, she meant that it will be your bed after the surgery," said another nurse.

"Oh," I said and got up. "In that case, I do find this bed to my liking and I approve it for my post-surgery use." [Bella makes some ridiculous hand motions as though she is blessing the bed and the nurses laugh.]

The reason I was a bit confused was because anytime you see someone go into surgery on television, they get wheeled in on a stretcher. I guess it's more dramatic than walking into the operating room and hopping up on the table yourself, which is what I did. I thought they'd at least sedate me first, but there was none of that. I walked into that room stone-cold sober.

The room itself surprised me, too. It was so...bright. I mean, it makes sense that the room would be bright - you want the surgeons to be able to see what they're doing - but I expected it to be a more sterile, florescent light kind of bright. You know, like on Grey's Anatomy.

Instead, it was a small room filled with natural light from a wall of windows facing a park. The ground and trees outside were covered in a fresh blanket of snow and the sun's reflection off it flooded the room with even more light. There were also large medical lights, but the room was so bright on its own, it didn't even seem like they were plugged in.

The nurse told me to take off my robe. When I handed it to her, she complimented me on my back tattoo. I told her the story behind the tattoo to distract myself from the fact that my butt was hanging out of the hospital gown. I was glad she didn't comment on that!

I climbed up onto the table and lay down. There was a flurry of activity around me, a team of people bustling around getting everything ready. I'm not even sure how many there were; I just tried to block it out so I didn't start freaking. The table itself wasn't what I had expected, either. It was shaped like a cross, with two "arms" extending on either side. I stretched my arms out onto them and waited for something to happen.

The anesthesiologist intern crouched by my left hand and started tapping my vein to insert the intravenous needle. I tried to chat with him, asking whether he could give me a manicure while he was down there, but he seemed very intent on his task. He used a smaller needle to freeze the area, then put in a very large needle. I looked away and squinted at the pain. Something had gone wrong and he called the anesthesiologist over to see. The needle had gone into the vein wrong and it wouldn't work, or something. I'm not entirely sure what happened. All I knew was that it hurt.

The anesthesiologist moved to my right hand and started tapping the vein there. "See," she said to him. "She's got great veins. You just have to coax them out."

"It's true. I'm so fabulous that even my veins are fabulous!" I said in a dramatic voice.

They laughed and the intern put an oxygen mask over my face.

"He's going to give you some oxygen before we give you the anesthetic through the IV," she said.

I breathed into the mask. It was fine, until they let the anesthetic loose in my veins. I felt as though I were drowning, choking on water. I felt like I was fainting and coming to at the same time, before I was hit by a wave of nausea. I started coughing and gasping for air and looked up pleadingly at the anesthesiologist to save me, because if this isn't what it feels like to die, I don't know what does.

"Don't worry, Bella, we..."

And that's all I remember.

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