Thursday, May 7, 2009

What Happened Then

Of course I didn't sleep a lot the night before surgery. I have vague recollections of television and the hospital's movie channel. There were infomercials, too. I don't know if they gave me a sedative, maybe they did.

Marcie and Erich arrived before 4 on March 25. They apparently had to speak to security guards, as there aren't a lot of people around the hospital at that time of the morning. Apparently there's no way to get a parking stub, either... these were all small parts of the chit chat that morning. Erich is mellow. And sweet, and a typically weird 18 year old. (He's 19 now.) And sweet to give up a day of spring break to be with his mom.

The people (hospital assistants? OR staff? aliens?) arrived to transport me to surgery a little after 4:30. I was able to transfer myself to the guerney (sp?) to be rolled into the bowels of the hospital. I made sure that Marcie had all of my things (the five things that I had brought with me, and my wallet and phone...) and suggested that they go for coffee for awhile before going to the waiting room. Erich squeezed my hand, Marcie kissed my forehead.

I know I talked to my drivers on the way to the OR. I recall getting into the elevator. The UWMC is a sprawling facility which has been addended and remodeled about a billion times; I have no concept (even with my great sense of space and direction) of where, exactly, the operating rooms are. Somewhere Below.

Pre-Op is like a stable. Privacy curtains about 3/4 the length of each bed, and I think there may be 12 - 16 spots in the room for patients? (Hard to see from the horizontal.) That time of morning is shift change, so there was a low hum of passing conversation about how busy the last shift was, what's lined up for the day, who was going out for breakfast after work, what surgeons were on call, etc. I'm pretty sure families aren't allowed in there, but it seems to me that I saw the family come in with another patient. I was staring at the ceiling for the most part, though.

It was there that I got a second IV inserted. I met the anesthesiologist... briefly at first, enough time for us to establish our common German heritage (mine by name, his by thick thick thick accent), then he wandered off to order drugs. By the time he came back he re-introduced himself and his associate as my soon-to-be-best friends. I said in a mockery of complete and utter shock "what? I said no anesthesia! we are going to do this with a bottle of scotch and a rag to bite on!" Well. I thought it was funny at the time, and I think the dr. laughed. The nurses did.

I have been asked if I was scared. Or worried. Or excited. I have to say none of the above. It's hard to describe. The surreality of the surroundings impacted my ability to think beyond my breathing. The magnitude of what was about to happen hadn't really sunk in (I'm not so sure it has even yet). Having had abdominal surgery in the past, I knew fairly well what I was in for in terms of recovery pain. And beyond that, well, I believed the staff would do their jobs well. There wasn't any way to worry about prior decisions, or fret about the future. I just had to be.

The last think I remember is being wheeled toward the ER, with the warning that it might be cold and bright in the room. I was warm, so I think I said something about not being worried about that. There was music on. In the back corner on my left side there was a team of doctors seated on stools at a table working on the graft. And then I shut my eyes.

Somehow, I also remember in a lull of the activity that I did have the presence of mind to breathe deeply. When I'm on a heart/oxygen monitor I like to play with the screen and see if I can slow my heart rate and make the blips do different things. Breathing helps that. In the space of that breathing I also concentrated on making a welcoming place for my new liver. And being calm.

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