It has been one month since my surgery.
Four thursdays ago, around 12:30, the nurses came into my room and took away my cranberry cocktail. They didn't bother to turn the lights on, so I watched a pair of silent silhouettes cut off my food and drink, which is the last tie to the outside world. No fluids and no food for the next twelve hours. As it happens, a steady drip of saline and morphine makes a fair substitute for juice and cereal.
From the neurology ward I descended to the OR, which I thought would be a single room, but was instead a series of chambers where nurses asked me the same set of questions. — Have you eaten? Drunk? Do you have any piercings? Metal body parts? With each station the rooms seemed larger and emptier.
My calm broke at the last door, the entrance to the operating room, the last room in which I would be conscious. — Okay, now I'm nervous, I confessed. — Oh, don't be nervous, the nurse said, you'll be fine. And pushed my bed through the swinging pale green doors.
Inside the last room, everything seemed to be the same institutional green as the doors. People in scrubs and face masks came and went, walking around the machines and complaining about the deplorable state of the OR. — Where are his CT scans? Did he even have a scan? — I had a CT scan on September 11th, I said to nobody in particular, realizing at the same time that all these people were probably going to see my ass in the next ten minutes. — Oh look at that, one of them said, look at where they put the IV, how are we going to work with that?
They sounded a bit like a film crew.
One of them pulled down his face mask, exposing a birth mark that ran along his jaw. — I'm Dr. M, your anaesthesiologist. Do you have any questions before you go to sleep?
As always in these sorts of situations, I had rehearsed the questions. I could remember none of them, so I said the first thing that was in my head.
— Do people ever have accidents under the anaesthetic?
— What do you mean?
— I mean, I know that I haven't eaten in twelve hours... but are there every any... accidents?
The doctor with the birth mark considered my question for a moment before he figured it out.
— Oh. Oh. Well, sometimes there's a little, you know, it's no big deal.
I tried to remember the important questions I had meant to ask, but suddenly I started to lose my equilibrium. Even though I was lying down, I felt as if I were falling gently backward. A nurse stuck a mask over my face.
— Breathe in and out nice and slow, she said, cradling my head (at least it felt as if she were). Breathe in... breathe out. Yoga. Yoooga.
I followed her instructions, trying to time my breathing to her voice, but the word yooooga was producing an urge to giggle. I could feel the corner of my mouth twitch out past the lip of the mask. As I continued to tip backward, I let out a quick snort and tried to ask her to stop with the yoga, but I was a second too late, awake already, lying flat on my back in a bright crowded room and covered in blankets.
Once you wake up in the recovery ward you are on the other side of surgery. From the core experience of medicine, the anaesthetic coma, you begin to dig out through the layers until you hit air. Which I will tell you about tomorrow. Because this entry has gone on pretty long. Damnit.