Dallas, like Scottsdale, has a very competitive healthcare industry. I’m not sure if it’s because there are a lot of sick people, a lot of old people, or a lot of people who are hypochondriacs. The industrial landscape is peppered with numerous hospitals, free-standing emergency rooms, urgent care facilities and wellness centers. Advertisements grace the expressway billboards promising everything from new eyesight, 100 pound weight loss, digestive relief after all these years, recovery from breast cancer, a new you by taking testosterone, and more. They kind-a downplay the Ebola thing around here. Word on the street is they didn’t handle it all that well but finally figured it out when it was too late. I think there should be billboards that say Wait!! Sorry about that last thing! We get it now! Give Dallas another chance! Bring your Ebola to us!!”
In the days leading up to surgery, everything in my mind was categorized as before surgery and after surgery. Like a flight across the ocean, I’m never convinced there really will be an after an oceanic flight. But, each day I would find myself surrendering a little more to that mini break from life and complete loss of control, which is general anesthesia.
On the morning of my surgery I felt resigned and task oriented. I also felt hydrated because I drank almost 90 ounces of water the day before so I would not have the dreadfulness of being thirsty on a morning I could drink nothing. I put on full make-up and fixed my hair. Some sense of control I suppose. As we entered the hospital at 8:00 am on New Year’s Eve, it was very quiet. Four “concierges” with little to do huddled around an entry desk chatting. They looked at my husband and me and one lovely woman said, “Good morning! How can we help you?”
“My name is Andrea Thompson and I’m here to celebrate the New Year by having umbilical hernia surgery!” I exclaimed.
They all burst into laughter and one adorable man high fived me. I loved seeing his black hand meet my white one. “That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard at this desk!” His eyes twinkled.
I quickly found out I was the one and only person having surgery at the hospital that day so the ratio of service providers to patient was about 15 to 1. The first was a very young woman with jet black hair underneath, magenta hair on top. It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone thinks that’s attractive. She told me she was going to take my vitals.
Now, this was a problem because I have White Coat Syndrome. It’s not because I’m scared of doctors, it’s because I’m scared of what they might tell me about my health. However, it’s now evolved to I’m scared someone is going to say I’m going to take your blood pressure. My blood pressure elevates because I’m scared my blood pressure is going to elevate. When I go see Dr. Christy, I take my own blood pressure at home for 5 days in a row and document it for her and it’s always fine.
“Yes, it’s elevated,” the gal deadpanned and didn’t even blink, “177/98.”
“WHAT?” I nearly shrieked, “It’s never been that high even in the presence of the whitest of coats!! Will I be having a stroke here soon?”
“Let’s try the other arm,” she said casually as I was sweating over the fact that I knew no surgeon would proceed with a procedure with blood pressure that high. “126/81,” she said under her breath, “we’re good.”
“What?” I said, “how did it plummet in 10 seconds?!”
“You probably relaxed,” she said as she put the BP equipment away.
“Relaxed?” I exclaimed, “after being told my blood pressure was 177/98?”
She had no idea what to say to me so she motioned me to get on the scale. God, I thought, with the way things are going here I’ll probably weigh 260 pounds! No wonder I have a hernia! I did not weigh 260, I weighed my normal, acceptable, BMI happy weight of (X + 10). The 10 is my opinion no matter what BMI says.
Next, a clumsy woman attempted several times without success to insert my IV. Suffice it to say it took several stabs in several parts of my arm and hand to finally get it right and I have the bruises to prove it.
After several gadgets, devices, liquids and soft goods were adhered to, hung on or injected into my body by several of these 15 people, I met my surgery nurse. Augustine was tall and buff with a curly head of black hair and had a little trouble with eye contact. Based on his slight accent I guessed he was Jamaican. His demeanor was staid and serious and he did not smile once as he explained my procedure and answered my questions. He was clearly thorough, knowledgeable and competent and I had complete confidence in him. I asked him to keep and eye on the flow to my IV and explained the trouble the gal had getting it in. He promised he would.
I rested a minute and in lumbered my anesthesiologist. I can’t remember her name but she was plump, earthy and clearly marched to the beat of her very own drummer. She had a bohemian looking scarf on that covered her entire head and hair; and she had hair so it wasn’t a chemo deal. Maybe she chose this over a hair net in surgery? Her dangling earrings sparkled in the bright lights. She was a talker and was telling me things about anesthesiology I really didn’t need to know. It reminded me of when a refrigerator repair man comes and wants to teach me how a refrigerator works. I don’t care! Just fix the damn thing, man, and move on. Anyway, her comments were dry and unedited and I like that kind of person as long as there is no anger or hostility behind it and with her there wasn’t.
“No lifting, pushing or pulling for two weeks after surgery,” she said, “so that means Steve will be doing the vacuuming, mopping and laundry.” She got his attention and he looked up from his device and we all laughed.
Suddenly the energetic, confident and ready to roll Dr. Komen bounded in the room. “Ready for your surgery?” she asked excitedly.
“Yes, I am.” I said. “And, it’s good to see you, Dr. Komen.” I’d only met her a week before and I love when surgeons are so cheerful and positive. That attitude might affect outcomes.
“Dr. Komen,” I whispered so just she and Steve could hear, “I’m loving this! Both doctors are women and the nurse is a man!”
“Yes,” she said smiling, “It’s fun….there IS still a stigma about that, isn’t there?”
She talked about what was going to happen during surgery, after surgery and during recovery. She gave me some verbal instructions about what to do and not do when I got home. Steve was listening.
“It’s a good idea to get up and walk around the first couple days after surgery,” she said. “Wear some Shapewear or Spanx for the first week or so when you are up and about.”
“Do you have any of that stuff?” Steve blurted out. He’s a quiet guy and that was the first time I heard him talk in an hour.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked astonished as I turned my head and looked at Steve, “I probably have 10 pairs of Spanx!”
At that, the staid and serious Augustine slumped over, dropped his head and laughed hysterically. Steve looked sheepish. Dr. Komen didn’t even break a grin, she just kinda stared at me; surely she owns 10 pairs of Spanx, too and didn’t understand what the hoopla was about. Augustine was still laughing.
A sedative was dripping into my IV and I was becoming very relaxed. Steve kissed me hard. The bed started to roll with Augustine, still smiling, in the lead. Someone was steering from behind but I didn’t know who and it didn’t matter. I was in good hands. We entered the bright, white operating room and the people there greeted me quietly. I smiled at them through bleary eyes. Then the mask came over my nose and mouth.