Folks seem to forget that Frankenstein is the name of the twisted scientist, not the creature himself. Since I’m the writer around here, though, I take the initiative to call myself Frankenellastein, and we’ll all just have to live with it.
I nervously unwrapped my hand today, pleased to get some air on my owie but dreading having to look at the thing if it was scary. Luckily for me, it looks pretty good so far: the swelling is going down and while it is pretty bruised, I think the incision will leave a minimal scar. Go, Dr. Biceps!
I haven’t told you this yet, but my surgeon is a young, exceptionally fit fellow whose buff arms hardly fit in the short sleeves of his hospital scrubs. I secretly refer to him as Dr. Biceps. He looks more like a doctor who should be in orthopedics, wielding a bone hammer, but he specializes in plastics, and everything I’ve found about him online says he’s an excellent plastic surgeon. Seems to me like hiring a monster truck to drive in a Disneyland Parade, all that wasted power and all, but never mind.
When I got to the day surgery unit on Wednesday, I checked in, completed the signing away of my life and the graffiti of my arm, and was sent to a back waiting room to wait for my turn in the operating room. Meanwhile, The Electrician was out in the main waiting room, reading a super cool book I found for him about physics and superheroes and trying not to worry too much.
I arrived on time, and should have only had to wait a few minutes for my procedure, but we all know that nothing ever happens on time in a hospital. I ended up waiting for well over an hour in that back waiting room, separated from my sweetie and feeling as scared as the idiot who wore flip-flops to the peg-leg convention.
When I had been in the back waiting room, really a grouping of chairs on either side of a corridor, for a few minutes, another woman, wearing a beat-up leather jacket, stormed to her chair, apparently quite put out. “For crying out loud,” she fumed, “Nobody told me I had to be awake for this!” It was true: we were all there for minor hand surgeries under local anesthetic. I told her that I’d known from the get-go it was an awake kind of deal, and I was bladder crampingly afraid of needles and quivering on the inside.
“Aw, hell,” she replied. “I’m a diabetic. I don’t care about the needles. I’m worried about the knife!” We sat there and shook in unison. About two minutes passed in silence. Then, a nurse in green hospital jammies with a rather sour look on her face strode through our little waiting room corridor: carrying a very large butcher knife. It was very Mrs. Lovett, and the woman beside me became a whiter shade of pale.
“Hey,” I said to the nurse, “that’s perhaps not the best tool to blow through this area holding.” She stopped dead in front of us (and my fellow soon to be pincushion shuddered).
“Sorry,” she laughed. “There’s a birthday cake today.” She kept walking, but the other lady didn’t find it funny.
When another nurse walked through a little later, the leather jacket woman called out to her, “Are you sure I have to be awake for this?”
The nurse seemed a little more patient than some I encountered, but she wasn’t sympathetic. “There’s no need for general anesthetic. This is a very basic procedure.”
“Oh, I don’t want to be put under,” leather jacket lady continued, “I just want to be, well, I think it would be easier if I was, uh–”
“Gooned!” I interrupted. “I just want to be good and gooned.”
“Yup. Gooned. I don’t want to have a clue about what they’re doin’ in there.” The nurse giggled and kept walking.
Soon some other folks came to sit in the waiting corridor. One was a guy in his mid-thirties who tried to take his mind off things by watching movies on his iPod. I’m not one hundred percent sure what he was watching, but based on the look on his face, I think he was watching dirty movies. He kept smirking to himself, licking his lips, and shifting uncomfortably in his chair. I guess we all do what we need to occupy our minds somehow.
There I waited, with leather jacket lady and dirty movie guy, while nurses walked through and voices called over the intercom. Finally, a nurse with pretty curls and cats on her scrubs called my name.
In the little operating room, Dr. Biceps greeted me, and I had the fleeting thought that if I tried to bolt, there was no way in heck I could out run the man, so I did as I was told and lay on the table. The next thing I knew, he said, “I’m going to freeze you now. Sorry.”
I think there are no words for the burn caused by local anesthetic. Why we are still injecting molten lava into people’s joints when we can put a robot on Mars is beyond me. I dealt with the poke of the needle, but when Dr. Biceps started pressing the plunger to deliver the fluid, I dissolved into sobs. There was no helping it, given how nervous I was and how terrified I am of needles, and by the time the freezing was done, my ears were filled with hot salt water.
I think part of the problem with the local was the fact that I’ve been working 14 plus hour days to catch up has much as I can at school and to prepare for the supply teacher to take over. That’s one of the things about teaching: you can’t go on medical leave without a whole heap of preparation. The extra workload plus the prohibition of anti-inflammatories for a week before the procedure meant Dr. Biceps was injecting Screaming Sphincter Hot Sauce into a wrist that was already enraged. It was not pretty. It was also as embarrassing as all get out, but, as I said, it was completely beyond my control.
By the nurse in the kitty cat scrubs came back from her hunt for kleenex, the freezing had started to set in, and I could cope with the rest. I was surprised by how fast the actual cutting and reassembly was. The next thing I knew, they were sending me on my way with tear spots on the insides of my glasses lenses. When I asked how long I would need to wait to start driving, they told me I could drive myself home if I wanted to.
Uh, excuse me?
My dominant hand was bandaged, numb, and I was directed to hold it above heart level to keep swelling at bay. There was no way in heck I was safe to drive home. Luckily, The Electrician was waiting to take me home to my couch. I was over an hour late to have my procedure by the time they finally called my name, but he waited and worried and was an excellent sweetie on all fronts.
Later in the evening, when the freezing suddenly disappeared, there was agony in the dollhouse. It was like my hand was my elbow, and I’d shmucked that funnybone a good one: the pain came in shimmering waves, every time I moved my arm, or my hand touched something, or I blinked my eyes or a car drove by outside or a commercial came on the television. There seemed no end in sight.
My post-op instructions from the hospital said that regular Tylenol would be enough to manage the pain. Ha! That’s like telling me a bikini wax will be pleasant and relaxing. Thankfully, the worst of the pain lasted about five hours and then started to ease. It’s a good thing it did, because I don’t think The Electrician could take much more worry.
Today, it throbs and really isn’t good for much, but I can handle it unless I move it too fast or bump it into something. Sherman comes home from the kennel in the morning, so I’m really hoping for a bit more function so I can look after mammal related things around here.
Thanks to everybody who has called or sent messages. A sweet colleague of mine even brought me muffins, scones, and some incredible homemade sorbet. All in all, things are looking up.
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