I am scheduled in a local hospital next week for what the surgeon and my referring doctor call minimally invasive surgery, a one inch slit in my back to allow removal of a minor chip that presses on a very sensitive nerve root in my spine. That chip will be extracted by a small pipette through muscles that are no longer impressive. The surgeon was very reassuring, and I looked forward to again walking without falling down or leaning on a cane, a wheeled walker, or a very strong understanding woman.
I looked forward to the cure until the next meeting with my male bridge group, twenty or so guys, called the Grumpy Old Men. Several of them and I have tripped over my cane a few times in past months, and they were concerned about our mutual welfare. When they heard my casual comments about the pending procedure, several recalled a sister or uncles with the same affliction and prescribed surgery and shook their heads dolefully, “Boy, I hope it works out.” I told them what the doctor said; it is a simple micro surgery, minimally invasive. “Boy, I hope it works out.” My minister on another day said, “Of course, we’ll be praying for you.”
Still assured to some degree offered with the surgeon’s confidence, I went to a scheduled 9:30 appointment today with the Anesthesiology Clinic for the minor event next week.. The clinic is in the same medical complex as the hospital. The admitting assistant gave me required paperwork to complete. We’ll call her Lee. It looked very similar to a document of a different color from a form I completed and mailed in a few weeks ago. I’m compliant with medical persons and filled out all the same information; name, address, date of birth, prescribed meds, prior surgeries, and then several disquieting questions: designated driver from hospital. name of persons who will be caring for you. OK, I thought, boilerplate survey for persons with severe surgeries.
Lee took this completed form, and led me down the hall to a private room. As we went, she pointed out a drinking fountain and bathroom; I thought that was friendly but unnecessary. I had plans to visit my dentist in little over an hour. Lee said, “You’ll meet with a medical assistant here.” But first, Lee asked me to spell my name and date of birth. She checked, and it was the same as she had watched me write on the form about five minutes earlier. When I was able to remember the answers after the long walk down the fifty feet of hall from the front desk, she promised that others would be in shortly. She glanced at the form I’d given her and said, “Ninety one! You look fabulous.” Now this isn’t something I hear from a female every day, or ever, but it was friendly and I thanked her.
Carrie, the medical assistant did come in shortly, and fired up her computer to record answers to the several questions she would be asking during my stay there. “But my surgery isn’t until next week. I’m not staying,” I reminded her. She smiled tolerantly, “ There’s a bit of data we need to record before the anesthetist sees you, and we do an EKG, blood pressure , blood draw. “Now please say your name and spell it for me.” She can’t read my writing? The questions continued. Date of birth? She wasn’t so impressed as Lee. Your meds are? Allergies? Family history of: cancer, any mental illness? Sleeping problems, diagnosis of sleep apnea? So far I hadn’t slipped even once, having answered the questions to confirm what I had entered at the front desk, and two weeks earlier from home. That should solve any mental question.
Carrie continued asking questions, while Min joined us just to take my blood pressure, do a blood draw. She put me on a scale to see if I’d lied about my weight on that form. She didn’t even ask my name, which didn’t seem very friendly. Min left, Carrie typed on her computer as she continued questions. We confirmed for her computer my prior surgeries, and what kind of cancer I had experienced and asked again about mental illness. That was getting offensive. I’d told her already.
Tad came in with his sticky-pads and EKG machine to see if I was as healthy as my last visit several months earlier. I guess I’m okay as he left me on the huge ten thousand dollar recliner chair where he had settled me for the EKG, smiling but no comment..
Carrie continued with her questions for her computer, some of which got pretty disturbing. Do you have an Advanced Directive on file here? Now this form needs your signature; it authorizes the hospital to use blood products, if necessary. I protested, “This is minimally invasive surgery,” but agreed and signed. Who do we call in an emergency? I hope it’s a doctor, since I’m going to be here in the hospital. She brought out a large paper bag. Lunch? It still wasn’t quite 11:00 AM so I wasn’t hungry yet. But she explained.
These are the special antibacterial soaps I would be using before surgery, per the instructions on the paper she handed me. She then explained. Two days before surgery, I was to take a regular shower, with my very own soap, rinse thoroughly before showering again with their soap in this new sponge, smooth side only, in the back incision area, rinse and dry with a clean towel. Sleep only on clean sheets each night. One day prior to surgery repeat the process, my soap, their soap, clean towel, clean sheets. On day of surgery, repeat with clean towel, clean underwear but no clean sheets as I am to reach surgery by 5:30 AM. Good, I don’t have to make the bed again.
Carrie continued wanting to know if I had migraines, headaches. She asked about sleep apnea, breathing problems, snoring. I reminded her I would only be staying one night. She asked again about mental problems, any in my family. I hope she forgot she asked that just a few minutes earlier. She wanted to know if I had MRSA. I didn’t tell her I hadn’t been exposed since I was a hospital patient ten years earlier.
She finally ran out of questions, and left with, “The doctor will be here in a short while, there’s three patients ahead of you.”
I settled down on Tad’s expensive recliner, was almost asleep when the anesthetist came in. “ Hi, my name’s Ron. Any questions, Gus?” Any problems with general anesthesia in the past? Any breathing problems, because we’ll be sticking a breathing tube down your throat while you’re not breathing so well and your throat may end up a bit sore.”
“ No questions? It’s a simple procedure. We’ll give you something to make you sleepy, then a general that’ll knock you out. Anything you want to know about? A brief pause, then, “Okay, see you next week?”
Somehow, I felt much better after less than five minutes with Ron.. And Lee is nice.
Note: All names have been changed, except mine. GUS DAUM