I’m having surgery Friday to remove the hardware (yes, that’s what they call it) from my shoulder. I’ll be able to wear a backpack again. And I won’t wince when somebody pats me on the shoulder or stifle a scream when the teacher corrects my shoulder position in yoga class.
As part of the pre-op procedure, I had a scheduled talk with an anesthesiologist. No guarantees I’ll get this woman when I have the surgery, but I’d like to. She’s about my age. She loves her work and has chosen not to retire. We were able to talk about how great it is not to have periods any more, and have no worries about getting pregnant again. We talked about our grandchildren, and how we both don’t check luggage, but wear a school-sized backpack instead.
I told her not to freak out when the breath-counting machine shows only 4 breaths per minute instead of the standard 10 or more. This is typical for long time yoga students, but she hadn’t seen it before. She wondered if the slow breathing continued when I’m sleeping. I assured her it does. I kept triggering that breath-counting monitor alarm when I was unconscious in the emergency room after the accident. My husband made them turn off the sound, so nurses would stop coming in the room just because I was breathing slowly.
The surgery scheduling woman told me I was going to have a 3-hour complete physical exam. I’m having the surgery at a teaching hospital, so this is actually within the realms of imagination. I was terrified. The scheduler next to her was coughing repeatedly, juicily. I wish she’d gone home. She should set a good example and take care of her health. This is a hospital. Surely she has sick leave. Plus, nobody is allowed to have voluntary surgery if they have a cold or a sore throat. She should not be coughing on people who plan such surgery.
I hate physical exams. I hate being touched by people I don’t love. When are they going to invent that salt-shaker sized gadget that Bones had on Star Trek? Bones just had to hold thing a few feet away from the person he was examining and it told him everything about the person’s health.
Being touched by people who don’t mind hurting me is what I hated most about being mugged. Not the gun, or the bag of manuscripts that they took -- the touching – shoving me to the sidewalk, probing my pockets, pulling on my ring (which isn’t going anywhere because I’ve gained weight since my wedding), checking my ears and neck for jewelry...
I hate the entire physicality of it. 3 hours of that would be pure terror. I think I prefer being mugged at gunpoint. Doctors know even more ways to cause pain that muggers do.
The actual exam was nothing like I’d dreaded, except for the needles to take my blood. The only thing I had to take clothes off for was the EKG. I called the scheduling woman and left a message on her answering machine asking her never to frighten anybody like that ever again. It is a minimal exam – just finding out if you can survive the surgery.
Nobody did any of this before the first surgery – the one in which the surgeon put in the hardware.
I also had to get a new advance directive. They didn’t want one of those before the first surgery either. Mine says I if I have a terminal condition, I don’t want tube feeding or antibiotics. I want to be dead as quickly and painlessly as possible. Removing the hardware is a 20 to 30 minute surgery. For this, they have me jumping through hoops. The original surgery, which I did not request, was 90 minutes.
I'm being nice to the surgeon who will remove the metal even though it is partly his fault that I have it. He picked out my x-ray as one he wanted to do surgery on. When I pointed out to him the people who convinced me to have the surgery had shown me somebody else's x-ray to get me to sign the form, his only comment was, "yours was bad enough."
The one they showed me was shattered into 3 big pieces and about 20 little ones. Mine had a simple break into 2 pieces. It’s unlikely that I would have agreed to surgery if I’d seen my own x-ray, even though I was doped up on morphine.
I have talked with the President of the hospital and he has agreed to find out how this happened and do what he can to prevent it happening again. Meanwhile, for those of you reading this – demand to see your name on any x-ray you are shown. It is there and they can show it to you. I have asked the President of the hospital to make it policy to show the name by default.
What's done is done, There's no point in arguing with the surgeon and getting him upset. I need him to be calm when he takes out the screws and plates that he put in.
And I need to keep myself calm for the next several days. Stress is the major cause of disease. So, I’ll be spending lots of time meditating over the next several days.