“I’m going to walk you down to the operating room,” the nurse said.
I grabbed the side of the robe that was draped over my open back gown and prayed the grippy socks on my feet would keep me from slipping and falling as I made my way down the hallway.
So, I got out of a perfectly good bed to walk myself to my surgery, I thought. How does that make sense?
I considered asking the nurse walking beside me but the fact that she didn’t utter a word as we continued down a long corridor didn’t make me optimistic that I’d get an answer. Finally, we came to a dead end across from two giant metal doors.
The sunlight steams through the window on my right illuminated the newly built building on the other side of the East River in Brooklyn, almost making it appear to be a place I might want to live.
“Take a seat on the window sill while I run into the room and get the anesthesiologist.
How is this sanitary? I wondered as I sat on the metal frame erected decades before I was born and appeared not to have been cleaned since.
I didn’t get the chance to even ponder the answer to my question by the time the anesthesiologist I’d met an hour earlier emerged and invited me into the operating room.
As I entered, a resident stood on the left typing a message on his smartphone, failing to make eye contact with me. Next to him was another surgical intern, who flashes an awkward smile, before glancing over the resident’s shoulder to try to see what he was typing.
“Can you sit on the table for me?” the anesthesiologist asked as she removed my robe. “You’re going to place your head on the pillow and each arm on the boards on either side of you.
I followed her instructions until I was outstretched in the position often used to depict Jesus on the cross during the crucifixion.
Moments later, two nurses strapped my arms and legs down as if I was a mental patient trying to escape from the hospital. Unable to move at all, I laid there and watched several more people buzz around the table without introducing themselves. In my line of sight was a giant television monitor that had my name, date of birth and lines for all of my vitals: heart rate, pulse oxygen, and blood pressure.
“Ms. Beamon, I’m going to put in another IV line. The one on the left arm that you got in the prep area will be used for anesthesia. The one I will place in your right arm will be used for other medication. We might add a third line in your neck to monitor you so don’t be shocked if you wake up and see all of them,” the anesthesiologist said showing no emotion at all. “Do you have any questions?”
I had a plethora of them but I found it hard to gather my thoughts as I felt the pick of the needle into my flesh.
“Before I inject you with the medicine that will put you to sleep, I’m going to give you a drug to make sure you don’t move while the doctor is using the robot to perform your surgery,” she continued. “It’s called succinylcholine.”
What can I possibly say now? I thought. I can’t look this up or figure out if this is the best drug for me now that I am strapped to the table. I hope and pray it’s safe.
The anesthesiologist didn’t give me time to raise an object. She picked up the syringe and pushed the drug into the tubing that was inserted into my vein. Seconds later, an oxygen mask appeared over my head. It was in the hands of one of the half dozen people who said nothing to me.
“Ms. Beamon, can you take some slow, deep breaths for me,” the man asked.
I watched my breath fog the mask as I calmly took several long, slow breaths. My eyes drifted over to a black nurse covering the components of the robot that would be used to piece me back together again with plastic bags. She was nearly done when I felt a burning underneath the skin on my left arm. I knew that meant the Propofol was being administered and it was just a matter of moments until I wasn’t conscience anymore. I mumbled a quick prayer, the same one I often say before procedures, then it was lights out.
Five and a half hours later I awoke in a bed in recovery with a throat that felt like a Brillo pad had been used to scrub it clean. Tubing hung all around me, circulation cuffs were on my legs, and a catheter was hanging between my legs.
My heart began to race as pain shot through my body. It only calmed when I saw my parents appear from behind the curtain. My mother stroked my hair, soothing me, as my father demanded the nurse bring the morphine to ease my suffering. Both of them stayed with me until I drifted off again, peaceful, grateful to be their child and glad knowing when the lights faded out this time, I would be waking up again.