Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Tables Have Ears

Last week had an underwater feel to it. Not drowning, but a bit floaty, discombobulated. Part of it, I'm sure, was due to a small outpatient procedure I had done midway through the week. "You're so *lucky,* they're not putting you under!" Lucky - yes, in that it certainly signals your needs are far from dire, and that bounty can not be overemphasized. During past periods of high-density diagnostics, I was simultaneously panicked/grateful for the the efficient, no-nonsense kindness of hospital people/ and wondering over the fellow patients who clearly had much more to contend with. But really, though I'm slightly less chicken than I used to be, I'm fine with a few dead hours of lost time, to wake up to a brightly delivered, "she's waking up -- You're ALL done! Everything went fine!" But no dice this time around. I was tagged and braceleted and put my clothes in clear, labeled bags; numerous people briskly introduced themselves, asked if the surgeon had talked to me, and then disappeared. A magical warming blanket ($250 line item? $600? not sure about its magic level) was tucked around the edges of the bed. After being asked so many times about the surgeon, I wondered what battery of questions awaited. After an hour or so, a spry, elderly man showed up: "Are *you* the one I'm looking for? I hear you have a *thing*," his gaze slid past my face to the more important body, "and oh you *DO*, we'll take care of that" and then he was off. After that I could respond, that yes, I had spoken with the surgeon.

Soon enough another person was glancing me and the wheeled bed off assorted walls, against unmanned wheel chairs and into the intimidating brightness of the surgery room. More people, more masks, clipboards and beeping. The needles bite more than the advertised "just a few little bee stings!" You angle your head in the direction of the seated woman who is tracking your vitals, though you can't see her in any case. Obviously, she is your lifeline, should nastiness surface; she has professional-grade soothing patter on tap.

Meanwhile, the surgeon and his team are waiting for the anesthetic to take hold; the one who is drumming a riff on your leg is also talking about a 72-hour barbeque pork recipe that is in process at home. "Sign me UP!" says an unseen woman, "So you like to cook, but your wife, doesn't, right? Luuuuucky wife!" It's true, his wife sees it as a hassle, but him? He finds it totally relaxing. And: he just got new toys. A blow torch ("ooOOooo, creme brulee??" the feminine voice coos. No, he clarifies, more for charring meat.) And liquid nitrogen, he'd love to try that out. No one in the room knows what he's talking about. I want to pipe up, "Riiiiiight, like Ferran Adria~~" but then I'd need to lift my head and they don't really want me to move. I also have a nagging sense that it's a mild breach. Their conversation floated above me; I listened to them from beneath layers of sterilized fabric and crinkly paper. It's odd, these scenarios where you're simultaneously a participant and yet somewhat invisible. Stick to the script and all will be well. But maybe this is more reflective of my playing into it? Maybe some sassier, fiercer people are all-personality, even in the surgical round, breaking in, tossing up sarcasm and dark humor: I am not just a patient! To think, though, that many people have that experience every day, through a job, or frequently, as a condition of a society's organization around class or gender or race, is pretty sobering.

{{{Compatriot-specific message! -- don't read the next paragraph. After that, fine. Everyone Else: as you were. }}

This also called up a vivid memory of having oral surgery as a teenager; the surgeon and his assistant were above me, to either side. Between the reflective light and the eyeglasses of those leaning in, I could watch what they were doing. The surgeon was cutting into the roof of my mouth and removing neat glistening rectangles of tissue. It was distressing and mesmerizing. Meanwhile, they were discussing yachts: different sizes, whose they had been on, at what level their owners maintained them. My eyes bounced between their faces, until it grew tiring or stirred panic. Blood, gums, yachts, Summer weekends.

The juxtaposition of mundane conversation with drastic-feeling circumstance was, instead, the so-called luckiness of being awake. It was at once mildly irritating and oddly reassuring: their expertise, their confidence levels were such, that they had to do *something* to help pass the time.  

No comments:

Post a Comment