In a postage stamp-sized hospital cubicle, I sit across from my husband James. Judging from his relaxed visage, thanks to an IV bag that contains liquid Valium or Tequila, He’s a little more comfortable than I am. He’s wearing a baby blue, sleeveless hospital gown that shows off his clean-shaven shoulder. I married a guy with more fur on his body than Chewbacca. That baby smooth shoulder just isn’t right. But, we all know that hair removal is standard procedure before going under the knife, or the Swiss Army scope, in this case.
I open my laptop. “Do you have wireless Internet here?” I ask to no one in particular. “Hell No!” laughs Carolyn, a strawberry blond nurse who seems to rule the outpatient surgery center with a Cracker Jack sense of humor. “The hospital’s making budget cuts right and left, don’t even have remote controls for most of the TV’s and you’re asking for wireless? Sorry, Honey, this isn’t the Ritz,” she laughs in an acidic, yet warm and likeable tone.
Dr. Wells, a super happy 50-something anesthesiologist walks in lightly swinging a brightly colored plastic sledge hammer toward James. Apparently it’s his joke for all patients, something he ordered from http://www.anethesiologypranks.com/, if it exists. “Hello, Mr. Wright, this will only hurt for a second,” he announces, missing the fact that my husband’s last name is Weight. We’re used to that. Everyone does it, even though “r” and “e” don’t have anything in common except for their employment as letters. After putting aside the hammer, Dr. Wells explains the whole anesthesia procedure, rattling off the names of a few sleepy-time drugs and warning James not to drive today because he could get a D.U.I.
Dr. Wells is so animated; it’s ironic that he makes a living putting people to sleep. He should be wearing muted shades of beige and speak in a constant monotone, without any laughter. I think Ben Stein and most golf announcers would make good anesthesiologists.
A few minutes later, Dr. Baggett, the surgeon, enters and draws a large purple X on James’ right shoulder, as if playing an exaggerated game of tic-tac-toe. Because I watch too many operating room error shows, I find considerable comfort in his action. The child in me wants to grab the marker and draw an equally big O on my husband’s mid-section. I resist the temptation, knowing that the doctor is supposed to be playing “Operation” instead. He leaves quickly, to set up that game, no doubt. “Care to draw an O?” James asks, clearly reading my mind. That’s one of the things I love about being married to him.
Just as I’m thinking that a installing a revolving door might be a good idea, Carolyn comes back in holding a syringe full of R-O-B-I-N-A-L. She spells it slowly for me, explaining each move she makes. I’ve told her I’m a writer and that I’m documenting the day my husband’s shoulder get s fixed. Carolyn has received this information with excitement, as if I’ve just told her that I’m producing a Dr. Oz episode of the Oprah Show.
“This is to dry his mouth out and raise his heart rate,” she says to me only, as if James is 4 years old and I’m his mother.
“Why do we want to dry out his mouth?” I ask. “Well, we don’t want him swallowing too much back there, now do we?” she responds as if everyone knows that swallowing during surgery, especially shoulder surgery, is just a terrible idea all around. I can think of some instances where swallowing isn’t advised, but surgery would’ve never crossed my mind. As the syringe empties, James’ eyes become droopy; his mouth slacks a bit. He starts mumbling about playing golf, getting our son Andrew out on the green with his new putter. “Putter” comes out like “puh-dzuh.” Carolyn neglected to mention that the medicine would also put him to sleep.
“Time to go, Mr. Wright,” says Carolyn. I take this as my cue to retreat to the waiting area. I kiss James, tell him I love him and watch her roll him toward the OR.
Now I’m sitting here, watching a NatGeo show on Anthrax poisoned hippos. In Africa, more humans are killed by hippos than any other animal. I guess that’s old news.
After a short eternity has passed, Dr. Baggett enters the waiting room unabashedly wearing golfing attire. While practicing his swing as he tells me that my patient is ready to go home. ‘He’s not awake yet, but you can go ahead and get him dressed.” Uhm, wow. Do you have a forklift I can borrow?”