Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Word's Most Interesting Surgery Story Ever

When most people tell you stories about past surgical procedures, there's a sense of urgency in their voice. This procedure was life-or-death. Whether or not the surgery was life threatening, cosmetic, or a routine appendectomy, the recipient of the surgery always conveys a troubled tone when they talk about their experience under the knife. A friend of mine once had surgery on his hand to fix a broken bone, and any time he tells me the story, it sounds like it was a delicate procedure, full of possible risks and complications. It wasn't. He went under, the doctor made a small incision, placed the bone back into it's natural position, then closed him up. Simple. The surgery took maybe an hour. When he tells the story though, he mentions the grueling pain, the complicated cast that was left on his hand for two weeks; it was the seven-hour-long surgery that saved his life! But why do people do this? Why do they make a simple procedure seem more terrifying than it really was? Simple, they were scared. This was my friend's first and only surgery ever, so his mind exaggerated the experience and translated it into something straight from the Vietnam war. It's not his fault, he was just scared.

Surgery is a scary thing; doctors will knock you out, cut you open, then mess around with your insides for an extended period of time. You could lose blood, some young doctor could leave something inside you, you could wake up in the middle of the surgery, you could never wake up at all. All these things go through your mind as they're wheeling you into the OR. For most people, this is a frightening concept. But for me, it's a fairly normal occurrence. About once a year, I undergo a Laproscopy, a simple surgical procedure that removes all the rogue endometrial tissue that escaped from my uterus and made a new home elsewhere, like my intestinal sac, my kidneys, or pretty much anywhere. Having had this surgery 4 times now, this was nothing new. I'd go to the hospital, they'd take my blood and urine, I'd sit in a room wearing nothing but a gown and some extra-large hospital socks with the rubber on the bottom, then I'd wait a few hours. Eventually, they'd give me a shot of something called the "I don't care drug" (IDCD), which would make me oblivious to the fact that I was going to be opened up shortly. Soon after the IDCD had taken effect, I'd be wheeled into the OR, where they'd lay me on a table, put a mask on my face, and then I'd fall asleep.

My most recent surgery was a completely different story, though. While it was still a routine Laproscopy, it was on a semi-emergency basis. For the weeks leading up to the surgery, I was in so much pain that I was screaming. I was crying. I was eternally in the fetal position. This was the worst my pain had ever been, and it happened suddenly. My doctor was able to schedule me for surgery less than a week after our emergency visit with her. She had no idea why my pain had gotten so bad in such a short amount of time. She decided to do the surgery with a surgical robot at Saint Luke's Hospital, which would be more precise and (hopefully) the results would last longer.

This means a robot would be stabbing me, shooting lasers into my belly, then sewing me back up.

Are you intrigued yet?

I had no time to be excited or nervous for this surgery. It happened way too quickly for me to build up any one emotion while I was waiting. Before I knew it, the day was here.

We drove to the hospital at 5 in the morning. Once we got there, they sent me to a small, curtained cubicle and had me change into a "fancy" hospital gown. I remember sitting on the stretcher in absolute agonizing pain, a 10 on the pain scale, but still feeling the need to keep quiet so as not to disturb the nurses and other patients. They could not give me any pain meds before the surgery, and I was not allowed to take anything for 24 hours before. My body was confused, shocked, and in pain, and I didn't know what to do. I wanted the surgery to be over with.

Before I continue, I must interject a small quip about a weird tradition my family does before a surgery. When the IDCD is being injected, we take pictures or video of the person (AKA always me) being drugged. This leads to some pretty hilarious internet videos and a few Facebook friends thinking we're a family of drug abusers. For me, the IDCD makes me laugh. Everything is funny. Oh, there's an old man next to me vomiting his guts out? THAT'S SO FUNNY! A nurse is telling me to be quiet? EVEN FUNNIER! I have a theory that if the news was reporting a mass shooting and 1 billion adorable children had died, I would still be laughing like the soulless, godless heathen I am. My father thinks this is the funniest thing, so he makes sure to document it and show it to me when I can remember which way is up. This is how my family bonds. We have many stories about drugs.

Anyway, as they were injecting me with the IDCD, I didn't laugh. I couldn't. The pain in my abdomen outdid any desire in me to laugh at anything. It was the first somber moment my family had ever been a part of, as they watched me roll into the OR without a single laugh. How sad.

I don't remember much past that point, although I do remember them showing me the robot that would be operating on me and asking me to name it. I named him Bill, after Bill Nye, who I am convinced is my real father. After that, nothing. I remember them injecting me with something, putting a mask on my face, then... everything went black.

The first thing I noticed when I woke up was no pain. I mean, other than the pain from the five stab wounds I had received from Bill the Robot. The constant throbbing cramps that had always been there for the past couple of weeks were gone.

I was sore for about a week after the surgery, but I noticed the lack of pain much more every day. I still had a little bit of pain, but it was almost entirely gone. A weight had been lifted from me and I suddenly felt like I could do things again.

Sadly, though, this pain-free-ish period only lasted a couple of months. As I write this, I can feel an intense throbbing in my abdomen that won't go away with any medication. All I can do now is wait for a new treatment, or another surgery. For now, I'll just pop some pills and write about a time when I couldn't feel anything.

<3 Mouse

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