Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Surgery - Part 2: What a Wonderful World

It's been 3 months since my arthroscopy. I can't get my surgeon's MOA on the phone. She doesn't reply to my emails. I have realized that a surgeon is only as good as his hands and only as available as his MOA. I've now passed the one year anniversary of my diagnosis and my every waking thought is about having my surgery and getting on with my life. This holding pattern is purgatory.

I have learned this past year that protocol is a bit of a sham. I have no intention of waiting in some imaginary queue. When I do get Ms. P on the phone, I lie: Dr. G was clear that I was to have my surgery 1 month after my arthroscopy. Ms. P taps on her keyboard and replies that she doesn't see any notes to that effect but if he told you that, then...oh, I have an opening for February 17th. It is that easy. After all the fighting and waiting and suffering, it comes down to a single, well-timed phone call. The lie was more of a partial truth anyway. What Dr. G actually said was that I needed to wait at least a month before my next surgery. I feel like I have reached the summit of a mountain. February 17th is 3 weeks away. I am almost giddy.

Dr. G meets me in the nurse's office, where she and I are completing my pre-op paperwork. He smiles and says: so you're ready to do this, are you? It's as if he doesn't know I have late-stage KD. It's as if he's forgotten that we last talked about this surgery 8 months ago. I am struck again by the irony of a surgeon not comprehending the loss of the use of one's hands. I just smile.

Dr. G brandishes a menacing-looking red marker and starts mapping my arm. Some circles here, a line or two there, a definitive "L" on the back of my hand. God forbid they get the wrong arm. I am not comforted by this extra security measure. See you in there, he says over his shoulder as he goes to prep.

I am a little disappointed that Brian is not my anaesthetist. We had talked about round 2 back in October and he'd said he'd be around. I actually don't have just one anaesthetist, I have a team - a team-in-training, it turns out. I tell them about my last nerve block wearing off after 3 hours. They exchange glances with each other and say they'll top it up.

I am decidedly wasted when they wheel my bed into the OR. This will be a longer surgery than before. And noisier. Electric saws, pliers, and chisels. Ok, the chisel could be my imagination - but I'll never forget the crunching sound of the pliers or the whirr of the saw blade cutting through bone. Or the bits of bone and flesh that spit out of the wound. I don't get the tv screen for this one. I am grateful.

My surgery is called a PRC and involves the removal of the proximal row of three bones, one of which is the lunate - the source of all my trouble. The surgery allows for the distal row to slide down into the vacated space, in turn helping convert the existing joint to something more akin to a hinge. Like a door.

There is a point where I can feel incredible pressure and my OR anaesthetist slides a syringe into my IV. The pressure fades away.

In recovery, I am quite helpless. I think my gown is twisted. One of my breasts is hanging out. I don't really notice or care. A nurse discreetly shifts and tucks my gown until I am covered. In an hour or so, this same nurse will try to help me put on my underwear and bra. I am too stoned to stand and my right arm is like jelly. She has to remind me to hold it up because otherwise I don't remember it is there and it thuds to the side of the bed. Getting dressed seems to take forever and makes me giggle like a little girl. God bless nurses.

Incredibly, I've been discharged. This time, I have the pain killer prescription filled. This time, when we get to the already-full ferry, my husband declares us a medical emergency and a vacant spot magically appears. We learn that this spot is always left free for any emergency. I store that little nugget away in my cloudy mind.

I am three bones lighter, high as a kite, and on my way home to rest and recovery. Hallelujah.

What a Wonderful World:
Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

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