The nurse at the pre-anesthesia room was reading the classified ads. She’s looking for a new job, maybe for an opportunity abroad, I told myself while observing her from my bed, waiting to be brought to the operating room.
“What’s your nickname?” the anesthesiologist said as she reads through my chart page by page, and interrupting my amusement for the nurse openly looking for a job while at work and with doctors and nurses around her.
“Barry, doc” I said, smiling.
“Ah from your surname,” she mused, as if to convince herself. I affirmed her with another smile.
“Okay Barry, it’s your time.”
That didn’t sound right at first, but she’s right, it was my time. I had long wanted the tonsillectomy to be over and done with. But as two nurses were carting me off to the operating room, I realized how much trust a patient needs to have on doctors to allow them to gamble on an operation. There are risks involved; my doctor was patient enough to explain to me all the possible complications, the most extreme of which is death. That doesn’t help build up the trust, does it?
I recall him trying to reassure me: “I’ve done this procedure for over 20 years and none of the complications has happened to any of my patients.” I recall just replying with a nod and a smile—to reassure myself more than to acknowledge his declaration of expertise.
So there I was on Valentine’s Day, lying in my hospital bed, being carted away to the operating room, after having mustered all the courage to trust my doctors for my first major operation under general anesthesia—my break-up with my tonsils.
My ENT doctor welcomed me with a pat on my shoulder. Good boy, eh? Then one of the nurses played “Killing Me Softly” on the radio as I lay on the operating table and nurses were putting all the contraptions to my body.
“How apt,” I told myself, while trying to remember the sequence of events in my mind, and negating the song by singing Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” in my head. I’m serious. I was really singing it in my mind. And doing this helped me calm down until the anesthesiologist placed the oxygen mask on my face and I felt groggy and very, very sleepy.
The next thing I knew, the doctors and nurses were waking me up. “Barry, it’s over. It’s okay now. We’ll bring you to the recovery room.” Shit,I thought it was St. Peter and his angels waking me up as there was only blinding light when I tried to open my eyes. I’m dead, I thought.
I woke up again and saw myself in the recovery room. I saw other patients still sleeping and the nurses busily attending to each one. After over an hour in the recovery room, I was brought back to my room. Before sunset one of the doctors checked on me, then just before leaving she said that people in the operating room found me quite amusing.
“When we woke you up and told you that you’ll be brought to the recovery room, you smiled at us,” she said.
I smiled, unable to ask: “I did?” But in my mind I continued the thought: “It must be Bon Jovi’s song, doc.”
Today as I write this I’m eating vanilla ice cream, still unable to speak clearly, and working from home for a week. It’s finally over and done with, my first major surgery. Now I think I’m ready to be 30.