Outpatient laparoscopic surgery.
“We make three tiny incisions, then you go home.”
They make it sound like it’s no big deal. Like you’re having a root canal.
I had outpatient surgery a couple days ago to remove two ovarian cysts. I hate having surgery. I would never choose it, not even plastic surgery that made me look like Kate Upton when I woke up. I tried to talk my OBGYN out of it, but he thinks he knows more about medicine than I do. He insisted I needed the operation for the sake of my health. He did safely deliver my second child by C-section, so I reluctantly capitulated.
My surgery wasn’t until 2:30 in the afternoon. I couldn’t eat anything after midnight. I was starving like the Donner Party by the time I got to the hospital. The seating area where you wait to go back to pre-op is right next to a cafe. I sat there smelling warm croissants and chocolate chip cookies while my stomach growled. The hospital might want to rethink their floor plan.
At the Outpatient Services desk, I had a moment of hope when the lady handed me one of those flashing, beeping pagers like they use at restaurants. I thought she was going to give me a menu too. She didn’t. They use the pagers to notify you when they’re ready to take you back and to let your family know when they can go back to the recovery room. Well, jeepers! This outpatient surgery thing must be no big deal. It’s just like going to Olive Garden. Only without the baked ziti.
The nurses and other medical staff were kind and compassionate. This was good, because did I mention how much I hate having surgery? I was on the verge of tears most of the time. Even though I told everyone who asked I was fine. Stoicism is my coping mechanism.
My doctor and a medical student came in to talk to me before the procedure. We discussed the surgery I had 20 years ago when they took out another cyst and my entire right ovary. That missing ovary has perplexed many unsuspecting ultrasound technicians over the years. I always wait to explain until they ask. I figure it makes their job more interesting, right?
Then the doctor asked about the other scar on my stomach. I always have to explain that too. It’s from a belly button ring I had once. At 41, I don’t look like the belly button ring type anymore. No, I wasn’t a stripper. Just one of those misguided decisions you make in college. That was 20 years ago too.
In the OR, before they put me to sleep, the anesthesiologist kept cracking jokes and making small talk. My flight response was at DEFCON One at that point. If it weren’t for him, I would have jumped off the table and bolted down the hallway with my rear end on display through the open back of my drafty hospital gown. Every anesthesiologist I’ve had has done this. They’re the comedians of the OR. Do they have to audition? It must be part of their training, to keep terrified patients distracted before they knock them out.
This was my fourth time in an OR as a patient. Each time, I’ve observed how swift and exact everyone is, moving in seamless efficiency. As my eyes grew heavy, I noticed the faces looking down at me. My OBGYN is Indian. He has a most convincing British-sounding accent that makes you believe everything he says. The third year medical student who
experimented on me assisted him that day was a Hispanic-American woman. The nurses, surgical technicians and orderlies were male and female, caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, young and old. It takes a lot of hands to perform outpatient laparoscopic surgery, even though it’s no big deal. I went off to la-la-land humming I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, thinking how beautifully diverse the staff at Borgess Medical Center is, and how glad I was they were all working together to take care of me.
I woke up in a miserable, drug induced haze. For me, it’s not the pain that’s bad. It’s the way all the medicines make me feel. I couldn’t open eyes, felt like a cement block was on my chest, and hallucinated that the white ceiling tiles were marshmallows. I wasn’t hungry anymore, but I’d never been more thirsty in my life.
A nurse said, “Drink this. Eat this. You have to take these pills.”
The doctor came in to talk to me. I don’t remember half of what he said, because I was trying to grab the marshmallows off the ceiling and make S’mores. Maybe I was hungry.
I did hear the doctor say he managed to save enough of my one remaining ovary that I don’t have to take hormones to prevent early menopause. If fact, I could still get pregnant! He said it like that was good news. Nope. That would mean another visit to the OR for a third C-section, and I’m done with ORs, thank you very much. The doctor chuckled. I least I’m still funny when I’m drugged.
Then they let my husband come back to the room. They told me I had to get dressed. All I wanted was to stay cozy and tucked up in the bed while visions of marshmallows danced over my head. But when your outpatient surgery is over, their goal is to dispatch with you as quickly as possible. Because it’s no big deal.
Somehow the nurse and Dave managed to get me dressed and wheeled out to the truck about an hour after I woke up. But not before I threw up everything I hadn’t eaten since midnight all over the bathroom floor. The nurse said I don’t hold my drugs very well.
I’m on day three at home. I’m sore, gassy, and lightheaded. It isn’t pretty. I keep smelling something weird, and I think it might be me. I need to drag myself into the shower. I binge-watched season five of Call the Midwife, and I go back and forth between the bed and the couch. I don’t feel like doing much else.
Do you know there are how-to videos of laparoscopic surgeries to remove ovarian cysts on Youtube?
They don’t use these as instructional videos in medical school, do they?
With my two C-sections, I was conscious the whole time. You can’t see much, but you hear everything. I know this is weird, but I liked the live play-by-play. I’m kind of a control freak. If I’m going to die, I want to be awake when it happens, you know?
I wanted to know what they did to me, so I watched part of one of those videos. Until it got too yucky. It looks to me like this whole outpatient laparoscopic surgery is a big deal. It’s major surgery. I’ll spare the details for the squeamish. You can always watch the video. But it’s way more involved than a root canal.
Besides getting to keep some ovarian tissue, I scored a snazzy, bright, yellow set of Pillow Paws that will keep my toes toasty and non-skid this winter. The quality of hospital slipper socks has really improved since the last pair I got when Wade was born seven years ago.
I was a little disappointed though, because they didn’t give me any of that super-sexy, mesh hospital underwear. I just imagine that it’s fish net. They sent me home with a whole set after my last C-section. I guess I didn’t get any this time, because it’s no big deal.