The surgery center called Monday with my instructions. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight. Check in at 11:15 a.m. Which I thought was pretty damn late considering I couldn't have breakfast. Or coffee. Or even water.
I got there and got checked in and taken back. The nurse started a saline drip. Then, in what equates to a perfect metaphor for our healthcare system, I spent an hour and a half answering the same quesitons over and over for an endless array of different people who came in - a nurse, a nurse anesthetist, an OR nurse, some other nurse, a post-op nurse, and finally the doctor. No, I don't have diabetes. No I'm not wearing dentures. I last ate at 11p.m. last night. No, I haven't taken any medicine today. An hour and a half of paperwork prep for a procedure that would literally last just minutes.
All the other patients had someone there with them. I didn't because Chip is out of town. Elijah drove me but I didn't feel right making him come back with me. It's a weird parent-child dynamic in that situation. I remember being in my mom's hospital room before she was taken back for her hysterectomy and, granted I was younger than E, but it was just weird - her being helpless in the bed and me being the kid. I didn't want to put him in that situation.
I didn't think I would mind being back there alone but the patient sharing my room on the other side of the curtain had her husband in there with her and they were talking and even taking pictures. In between all the people coming in to ask if I'd ever had a seizure or a stroke, I felt really alone. And a little scared. Before I left I'd texted instructions to my best friends: If I end up in a coma, tell Chip to bring my dogs to me.
I started to cry. And after crying for a few minutes I suddenly had a picture in my mind of Hushpuppy when she turned around and faced her fears.
And I realized that's what I had to do. I had to be strong and face my fears.
And it's a good thing I did. Because other than not waking up, my biggest fear really was that this wouldn't work. That there is no solution to my ongoing pain. So you can imagine how discouraged I felt when the post-op instructions nurse said to me, "If you experience relief from your pain, it's just temporary. The pain will be back later today."
Today's procedure is just a test, she explained. The doctor would inject a numbing agent and like novacaine, it only numbs temporarily. The point is to see if these are the nerves causing me the pain. If it works, and my pain is eased, then the doctor performs the second procedure, which burns the nerve endings and provides a more permanent solution.
Finally they take me into the OR. And it's freezing in there. I lie on my stomach with my arms over my head and they strap me to the table. Everything is ready but we're waiting and waiting for the x-ray people to come in. The nurse and the anesthetist debate what music to listen to and the guy puts on a band called Chevelle (like the car) and all I can say about that is it wasn't exactly relaxing music.
I tell him, "Next time I come in, can you put something in my IV to relax me?" Because I'm thinking a little valium or something an hour and a half ago wouldn't have been a horrible idea. And he says, "I have something to relax you" because he's holding this giant syringe of white milky-looking substance. It's propofol - the anesthetic that Michael Jackson foolishly used as sleep meds. The anesthetist plugs it into my IV and my arm feels really cold and I mutter "Here it comes" or maybe I didn't say it out loud.
Then I opened my eyes and I was on my back and I said, "Is it done?" and a post-op nurse who was either having a bad day or just isn't a very friendly person said that it was. Anesthesia is weird. It's not like sleeping. When you wake up, you know you've been asleep. When you come to from anesthesia, it's from a split second of black.
The good news is -- IT WORKED. There was still some muscle tightness but the bone-crushing pain was GONE. I'm a little discouraged that it will be back (and that I have to wait two more weeks for the other surgery), but for the first time in 30 years I feel like I have real true hope for relief.