Let me write this down before I forget.
Boy yesterday, I had a time. I was due at the hospital at 6 am to prep for a foot operation. I’ve been needed it for years. It just got harder and harder to walk. Finally, even though I dreaded the long drawn out process, I carried it through.
It was still dark when we got to Shand’s Hospital. We went inside and the very nice receptionist was ready for me. She knew my name and pointed me in the right direction. Inside of the surgery waiting room the ladies there gave me a form to fill out wanting to know my name, phone number, next of kin, my driver’s name, their cell number etc. Oh yeah, do you have a living will? Like what kind of question is that? I’m just getting some out patient surgery, minor stuff.
It must have been my lucky day. My name was the first to be called back to pre-op. No coffee or food for 24 hours is what they told me. I’m not one to abide by the rules, but I just figured what the hell, it won’t kill me to do like I am told for once.
Still a little groggy from lack of sleep and without my morning coffee, a small athletic looking black woman escorted me to a booth with surrounding curtains and a gurney. She asked me if bathed with the medicated soap the night before like I was told to do and I said yes. She asked about the sanitary pads, did I use them this morning to wipe my body down. I told her yes, then she said “Good, we’re gonna do it again.” She held out three packets of medicated sanitary pads, she said “I just heated this up for you, I want you to remove all of your clothes, then wipe down with these pads. I want you to use 1 pad for each foot and leg, then 1 pad for each arm, stomach and shoulders. We don’t want to spread any germs. The she showed me a gown and told me that when I finished to put the gown on and she would be in to help me wipe my backside.”
Aw, it was too early for this crap, I thought but I complied. The curtains were drawn but I could see a short silhouette and a voice asking me if I was “ready yet?” I wasn’t sure what she wanted to know exactly, so I let her ask me a second and a third time. I turned to face the wall away from the curtains and felt the warm pads rubbing up and down my behind and across the back.
A voice said, “My name is Jocelyn, I am here to help you get ready for your surgery this morning.” Jocyelyn was a short oriental lady, middle aged wearing glasses. I could tell she was a cut up. She helped me lay down on the gurney, then started hooking me up to a heart monitor and putting an IV outlet in my wrist. She read my chart and then asked me my name and date of birth. Something that I got asked from then on, about every 10 minutes, like I was gonna change it or something.
Jocelyn was very talkative and helped me to ease my fears. I could see her staring at something over my head and I looked at the reflection in the glass cabinet in front of me. She was watching my heart monitor, the numbers kept fluctuating some, then she would check my chart, flip some pages and the look back at the monitor. I said, “Don’t let it bother you, I have always had a low heartbeat, every body else freaks out over it too. I could see the numbers in the reflection going up from 44 to 47. I told her that I could make it go lower than that. I started staring at a spot on the wall, lying motionless for a minute and looked up, the monitor read 39.
She was gone for a second and brought back a couple of co workers who stared at the monitor. It was back up to 47, 46, then 44. One of the ladies asked me if I was a professional athlete, because only athletes have a heartbeat like that. Then a real pretty nurse walked by that got my attention and the monitor went up to 50, 51, 51. After she walked past it dropped back to 47, 46, 45 then 44.
I could tell by the way Jocelyn kept looking at her watch, that we were just killing time, waiting for the doctors to get out of their morning meeting. Since she had already seen me naked, I thought it would be alright to ask her personal questions. I asked her how did she like her job. She told me that she loved it, that she enjoyed helping people. I said something to the effect of “I bet you get a lot of grumpy people in here, this early of the morning without drinking any coffee. She said “no, she had drank two cups, she felt fine.” I laughed and said, “Oh, I meant the patients.” She that she tries to comfort everyone and to make them feel at ease. Then she said, “Sometimes people look at me and ask me do I speak English?” Then they’ll ask for someone else because I look foreign. I told her, “Don’t worry about what people say or think, your English is better than mine, I’m jealous.” Jocelyn told me that she had called for my wife to come sit with me until it came time for the operation but can’t imagine where she is. I asked, “Did you page the cafeteria?” Just about that time my wife came walking around the curtain, laughing, “Here I is.”
As we sat there waiting, killing time Jocelyn would walk past the front of the curtains doing a little Egyptian dance, like Steve Martin in one of his movies, she was so funny. My monitor got up to 47, 48, 49.
A lady came by wearing green scrubs, carrying a clip board. She introduced herself as doctor so and so, “what are we doing for you today?” Facetiously, I said you got the chart what does it say? She asked me to repeat my name and my date of birth. Then I said, “Well I am here today to have a bone spur remove from my big toe. Dr. Mock told me that it was the biggest bone spur that he ever saw. He said that it was so big that even his interns couldn’t miss it.”
She looked at me and said “Okay, which foot?” For a second I was dumbfounded. She’s holding my chart, with the old X-rays on it, looking at me laying on my back. My right leg is wrapped inside of a protective boot, covered with a big sock, with a sheet wrapped around it. My left foot is protruding from under the sheet, with my big toe sticking out with a bunion the size of strawberry and about the same color. I got to thinking maybe Dr. Mauk was wrong. I asked his intern if I could use her marker for a second. I took her black marker and drew an arrow on my leg, pointing to my toe, just so there would be no mistakes. I have heard stories.
Then the anesthesiologist came in, he wanted me to repeat my name and date of birth. Maybe I should be expecting some birthday cards next July. He was very nice, every one was nice, friendly and I cut up with them. Every one that came into my cube just stared at my heart beat on the monitor, like “how low can you go?”
An X ray tech came by with a portable machine. I told her back when I was in high school, that I wanted to be an Xray technician. She asked me my name and date of birth, then she said “Oh yeah, why didn’t you become one?” The real reason was because of the many hours I spent taking care of my mom after her car wreck, leg amputation, the cancer and having to administer her morphine shots 3 times a day, changing her bandages and emptying her colostomy bag had just been too much for me. I didn’t have the stomach for it any more. Instead I just told her that I heard that there was a lot of math involved and I didn’t think I was up to it.
The crowd in my cubicle dispersed but every time some one would walk by they would glance at my monitor, just to check it out. I should of felt like a freak, but I was enjoying the attention. I was cutting up with everyone in earshot. One of the nurses asked Bonnie, “Is he always like this? How do you put up with it, do you like it, do you tell him to stop or do you just ignore him?” Bonnie laughed at that and said, “Yes he is, and sometimes I do all three.”
Finally doomsday appeared on the horizon, I was almost dreading it. The crescendo of suspense had built up so much, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it or not, but I had come this far. I was wheeled into the operating room. The hardest thing I had to do was to scootch over onto that little table to be operated on. I asked, ” If it’s this much trouble to get me on the table, how are y’all gonna get me off?” Everyone in the room laughed and said almost in unison, getting you off the table will be easy, but you won’t know how we do it.”
In front of me was the anesthesiologist talking up a storm. I noticed all of the weapons of mass destruction hanging on the wall behind him, dozens of scalpels and knives, small saws, big saws and in between saws. I asked which one were they gonna use on me and the nurse said they were gonna use a sander. I asked her did she mean a dremel with a grinder on it, but before she could answer, a mask was put over my face. I could hear the anesthesiologist telling the nurse about his three different occupations. One was the anesthesiology stuff, the second was a computer programmer and I can’t swear to it because I was almost gone but in the back of my mind I could almost swear that he said he was a male dancer.
The next thing that I remember was a woman typing into a machine not far away from my bed. I wasn’t in the operating room anymore, I was in a recovery room. The lady reminded me of Florida in Good Times. The first thing I wanted to do was to check my monitor and I glanced around the room until I saw it. 60, 59, 60, 59 58. Wow. It’s gone up I said. The lady told me to be quite and be still she was monitoring my vitals. She said, “My name is Wanda, can you tell me your name and date of birth? I couldn’t help but think, alright, it’s all over. I kept trying to ask Wanda all kinds of stuff. I told her that my heart beat was up. She said really, it should be around 75.” Then she told me not to talk to her that she was busy and couldn’t do two things at once.
I told her to let that stuff go for now, that I couldn’t think of anything more important for her to do than to talk to me. She said, “I can’t, this is my job, if you want me to help you, you have to let me do my job. I told her that, “I could make it go up or down.” I’m not sure if she understood what I meant. She said “Stop it, you talk just like my husband.” I asked her if her husband has a low heartbeat too, and she just laughed and laughed until she started cackling, like I said something funny.
Dr. Mauk came into the room about that time and told me that everything went smoothly, giving me directions to leave the bandage intact until I came back to see him in ten days. His intern came by to say that they had “blocked” my lower leg, foot and toes, so that I wouldn’t be feeling any pain and to instruct me on taking my pain killers and anti-infection meds, to keep my foot elevated at all times, stay off my feet until my next appointment.
After they left, it was just me and Wanda for a few minutes until Bonnie came in to keep us company. Wanda had been kinda gruff at first but I told her that I could see through all of that and said she wasn’t fooling any body.
I asked her if she had talked to any body who had been on the other side and came back. Then I went on to tell her that I had done just that before and I explained about being in a car wreck, walking through the tunnel, seeing the light, meeting my loved ones and talking with St. Peter. He sent me back. I told her that I had just been to mouth of the tunnel again but there was a line between daylight and darkness, but whatever powers that be wouldn’t let me cross.
She started talking about God and her grandmother, how much she loved her and missed her. I told her that the ones you love the most, already know the exact time you are going to walk down that tunnel and will be there to greet you. The people that will be there to speak for you will show their face and the ones that come to speak against you will just be a blur. I showed her the scar on my stomach and told her that I had been pronounced DOA after the Life Flight ride in a helicopter. I remembered being in a body bag packed full of ice and hearing one pilot ask the other if I was gonna make it. I had received the last rites by a Catholic priest. Because my brother’s driver’s license said that he was an organ donor, and that they had mistaken his wallet for mine at the scene of the accident, they prepped me to harvest my organs. When they tried to remove my spleen, blood spurted everywhere alerting them to the fact that I was still alive.
I looked at the monitor, the numbers were coming back down 59, 58, 57, 56. I asked Wanda did she have any tattoos, she said no why? I told her that I had always heard that St. Peter had a fish tattooed on his hand and when I saw that he didn’t I asked him about it. He told me that God made man in his own image, you don’t think God has any tattoos do you? To this day, I refuse to get tattooed for any reason, because when I stand before him again I want to say that “I followed your advice.” I finished by telling her that my loved ones escorted me back to the tunnel and that I witnessed my own body in an ER facility strapped down to a gurney, with tubes and IVs running every where, before I woke up to a light shining in my eyes so close that I could read the words “Westinghouse” written on the bulb.
She lightened her mood at that and said most people want to complain to her, like what ever discomfort they were in, was her fault. I told her that I wasn’t feeling any discomfort at the moment but I sure would like it if she would just give me a big old hug. After seeing the look on her face, I think that was the best medicine for both of us.