The Mobius Joint
Veracity wrote a post about being under anesthesia, which reminded me of….
I spent a week in the hospital when I was 16. I was in for a knee operation. They removed 13 bits of my kneecap, set the 3 big pieces, moved the attachment point of my Quadriceps tendon, and repaired some of the adjacent ligaments.
The anesthesiologist asked me if I’d like general anesthetic or a spinal tap. I didn’t think his joke was funny. General, my man, make mine a double. Just then, my Dr. swept in with him entourage. He never traveled without his courtesans. The young ones cocked their heads as he described the miracle he would perform the next morning, 7:30AM sharp. Some dolt leaned over to look at my leg. Dr. T shooed him away and gripped my foot.
“See how the kneecap distends when I twist this way? Oh, here, is that better?” as I sighed in relief.
I woke up very early the next morning, leaving me with a hungry wait before they came for me. My neighbor was still sleeping. He was getting a new hip so he could play golf again. I was the third teenager to invade his room, he told me with some resignation, during the three weeks he’d been there. All of us came there for one orthopedic procedure or another.
Finally, a nurse came in to take my vitals. My blood pressure was 110 over 70, cooool as a cucumber 😉 For some reason, I didn’t feel any trepidation about this operation. I guess I’d already convinced myself that it would be alright. I asked her when Dr. T was coming. I guess it’s like seeing the bride before a wedding; I wasn’t going to see him until I was on the table. People gathered in the room as the time grew shorter. I was transferred to a gurney and strapped in. As we turned into the hallway, I realized that the sheets had formed the biggest tent I’d ever seen. If you wear pleated pants, you may be familiar with the phenomenon. No matter how I squirmed in my bonds, I couldn’t get that mound to dissipate. I started watching the ceiling lights go by. Dr. T’s lackeys practiced their bedside manner on me while we rode in the elevator. I think they each gave me 12.5% compassion. After the elevator came the doors. Large, swinging doors that jarred the gurney each time my driver went through. I looked to my right just in time to see a doctor enter another operating room with a large naked woman on the table. Suddenly, it all seemed quite real, and I worried a bit about my future. No time for that! Thump, through another door, a quick right, and we’re there. My operating room is painted green?! The only other place I’ve seen a stainless steel table with wings is on law and Order. They hooked an IV into my arm. I didn’t dwell on the lethal injection metaphor much. The anesthesiologist told me to count down from 100 as he switched on the juice. My arm was numb almost instantly. I could feel it working its way to my shoulder. 95. Half of my head went numb. I remember thinking how strange it was to have half of my head numb. I sent myself a message in that moment. I thought as hard as I could that the first thing I was going to say was “Did you get the license plate of the truck that hit me?” Ha Ha, I pictured the doctors having a good laugh with me. Maybe I bored them for 4 hours with my litany, I have no idea. 91 is the last number I remember saying to myself.
I remember seeing a fuzzy white light that grew as I concentrated on it. It resolved into a fluorescent light that hurt my eyes when I looked at it. My groaning attracted some attention, and a nurse leaned over me a moment later. I couldn’t make out her features, but I did have something to tell her.
“Dib boo dee daa libent pab ob da ducb thab hiff ma?” Huh? She leaned closer, trying to understand me.
“Dib boo dee daa libent pab ob da ducb thab hiff ma?” I realized that my tongue had swelled up to the point where I couldn’t be understood. I have to make her understand! It’s a funny joke!
“Dib boo dee daa libent pab ob da ducb thab hiff ma?”
She was already walking away as I finished. I had just enough time to wonder why she was leaving before I fell asleep again.
I woke up to see my neighbor reading a magazine. I was back in my room. I tried to roll over. Man that hurt. I realized that I had a ginormous cast on my leg. I wasn’t going anywhere fast for quite a while.
As the days passed, I started to gather more information from my reluctant neighbor. He was a retired engineer. He had worked on a part for the solid rocket boosters of the shuttle. No, he did not design the O-rings. He grew rather sharp when I asked him. He did, however, have an interesting life, and a simple reason for enduring the same conversation three times during his stay. I wanted to know everything about the Space Shuttle. He wanted to talk about his grandchildren and golf. He was looking to the future. He indulged me for a week, but the conversation would always lead back to his hopes for his new hip. I slowly started thinking about my own future and the recovery that lay before me. 12 weeks in a cast to start. Rather than learning about the shuttle, as I’d hoped, I learned about keeping my hopes in view. I also learned a bit about enduring the momentary to get to a better future.