Prepping for Surgery and a sense of the absurd


I know I’ve been quiet for a while. Seems like time got away from me, and a severe case of writer’s block apparently required surgical interventions or at least the threat of them to budge.

Surgery is a funny thing. I don’t mean funny “Haha,” but funny peculiar. Think about it. In order to fix something in our body, someone with letters after their name and hopefully a lot of impressive training is going to actually injure and go poking around inside what is generally supposed to be a closed and intact system. Now, I’m not knocking medical procedures. We’ve accomplished some astounding things, and it seems like every day they are improving the methods to prevent complications. Modern surgery and the accomplishments thereof are a far cry from the near butchery of the antecedents. Still, I wait with great impatience for the days when I can take a pill and grow a new kidney (or any other organ for that matter… Points to the people who get the reference).

And yet… there are parts of the process that still cause me to ponder, ruminate, become anxious, and aye, even cause me to shake my head with humor and irony. If you haven’t yet figured it out, I’m no stranger to the surgical theater. Due to a number of genetic quirks and other accidents, I’ve been the recipient of quite a number of procedures, mostly to my skull… No, they still haven’t found that brain they have been seeking. All the operations in question were to my jaws and dental structures. In fact, after one surgical procedure, I could walk through a metal detector stark naked and set it off. I quite enjoy to this day the look on the faces of x-ray technicians when they see the odd collections of wire embedded in my jaw hinges. But, I digress… I do that a lot, which is why this blog even exists, when we come down to it. If my brain always stayed on an expected track with normal and logical thought processes and zero tangential traipses through the ether, none of this rambling nonsense would be out there.

The interesting part of all the surgical curiosity is the instructions that the patients are given before (and after) the processes to insure the best possible outcome. Honestly, even understanding the reasons behind the directives does not always alleviate my perpetual ruminative escapades. Without fail, my mind will wander about after reading or hearing specific instruction and think about various aspects including what would happen if one didn’t actually follow the directions given. This last bit is frequently not really a good idea if one is, in fact, the patient. While I have been privy to a number of surgeries and recovery wards as observer or clinician, my imagination can still become quite creative enough to depict scenarios that are not only completely unrealistic, they would put the best of the horror directors to shame. So, as I said, not the best mental occupation for the intended target… I mean subject of the surgeon’s skill.

What brought on this recent rambling through my cranium is, as you might have surmised, that I am once again going under the knife. Nothing terribly serious, but as they do say there are inherent risks with all surgical procedures. It is another oral surgery, and I’ve become, after nearly three decades of experience with this form of intervention, somewhat inured to the general angst… but not entirely immune. I will occasionally and inexplicably have bouts of anxiety that are only relieved by contrarily imagining the worst possible situations and outcomes and making a complete farce of the whole ritual of instruction. Today, for instance, I receive the call (Like ya do) from the surgeon’s office reminding me of my appointed time and confirming that I had not left the state, country, or planet accidentally. I assured them that I was Earthbound and in the near vicinity still. As the caller was about to ring off, I asked if there were any instructions. To which, the lady gave me the usual “Nothing to eat or drink 6-8 hours before. Wear short sleeves. Bring someone to drive you and all your money.” Ok, I might have exaggerated the “all your money bit.” I think they only want most of it. Honestly, health costs in America… but I digress… again. I’m just a digressing fool today.

Anyhow, the caller ended the conversation at that point, and left me to my usual mental calisthenics about all of the foregoing… and of course the impending doom. I was so caught up in all of it that my usual morning conversation with my friend was the recipient of the overflow. I expressed to him that the worst part (aside from the monetary extortion) was that part about not eating or drinking. This is normally not a problem for me. It would be unlikely that I am imbibing or participating in a repast after midnight, but now… I will be thirsty as hell at 3:00AM. It’s true, and totally psychological. I consume more than enough liquid to keep myself hydrated (water, of course… a woman cannot survive by coffee alone, but without the blessed bean everyone else might die), but because someone told me I could not have anything to wet my whistle after the appointed hour, I will develop cotton mouth that would make the Mojave look like a lush oasis. Additionally, the eating thing… I’ve been in an appetite lull for a few weeks. That is the pendulum swing from the periods of time when I can’t seem to sate the empty cavern of my gut and want to eat ALL THE THINGS. For whatever reason, I just haven’t really been neck deep in the trough. I continue to eat small meals and snacks and consume protein shakes in an attempt to keep the energy stores going, fuel the physical machine, and avoid metabolism shut down, but otherwise… meh, just not that hungry. However… now, because I have been told I am forbidden to eat after midnight, I will very probably become quite ravenous at 12:01AM and nothing will do but to eat an entire wildebeest. Maybe it isn’t surgery that is so odd. It might actually be the perversity of my own mental nature. Nah! Surely that cannot be it…

On top of all the cogitating about the instructions for all good patients, I also, due to my years of experience, know what to expect in the aftermath. Again, this is where we have advanced beautifully from days gone by when I would have been laid up for hours or days in recovery and med-surge units while the anesthesia worked its way slowly from my system, groggy, nauseous, and grievously hung over (I usually try to reserve that for New Year’s Day). Now, the modern cocktail they use wears off very quickly with very few lasting effects. There is one, however, and it is a doozy. Because this is, as I said, oral surgery, one of the things they use is atropine. For those who don’t know, atropine dehydrates. In other words, it dries up everything. This makes it more convenient for people trying to deal with any and all things inside the saliva factory that is the human mouth. The natural consequence of using this tool is that there is a rebound effect when it wears off. It rather seems like everything on your face (and sometimes the rest of your body) is trying to liquefy or melt. Combine this with the local anesthesia that they use, and voila, snotty, drooling, tearful mess… I feel like a toddler left for the first time at daycare. On top of that, I cannot actually feel from my nose to my chin and so all attempts clean up aisle 4 are rather like Gumby trying to wipe the nose of a latex Richard Nixon Halloween mask. Super sexy, right?

And just like that… sense of the ridiculous appears to be my saving grace from rising anxiety levels. It is just virtually impossible to be scared of something that turns me into Tim Conway’s dentist routine or my own one-woman sitcom. See ya in the aftermath…