Thursday, October 21, 2010

You're So Vein

I am in the patient area of the hospital, waiting for my knee surgery. I am wearing two thin blue bathrobes, one forwards and one backwards, with papery blue shower caps on my feet-- and nothing else. At least 7 other people in here are already dressed this way, and we are reading free metro newspapers while the TV is playing, inexplicably, 100 Huntley Street. I definitely feel a little vulnerable dressed like this, with nothing to hold up my naughty bits--to strap me in, as it were-- but I suppose the gowns aren’t exactly form fitting, and most of us in this room are in the same predicament. I find myself bending my knee a lot while I sit there, because I can. I know soon I won’t be able to. I am a long way from the soccer field now.

After I get settled into my hospital bed, a young anaesthetist comes over to set up my IV. I explain to him that last time I had an operation, they didn’t have the easiest time with this part. We look at my hands and arms and he agrees – I don’t have a lot of visible veins. I can tell he’s a student, since he’s so thorough – he listens to my heart, and my breathing, and then he asks me to open my mouth to see how wide it can open. (Is it just me, or does that last request seem a bit dodgy?)

As he messes around with his needles and tubes and things, he smiles and holds my hand and asks, looking into my eyes, “If you weren’t here, what would you be doing today?”

I am a busy married woman of a certain age. No one ever holds my hand and gazes at me, asking me questions like this. We start chatting a lot about the Sutton Place Hotel, where I used to work – and to someone else, it would probably appear that he and I are having a ‘moment’. He’s holding my hand and rubbing my wrist, and saying how he recently went to the chocoholic buffet there at the hotel. More gentle wrist rubbing. Why does it feel like we should be sitting across from each other at a romantic candlelit restaurant? I’m wishing I had my wedding ring back on.....and then wham – suddenly there’s a big needle in my wrist, and beside the needle, a tube is being inserted. What was all that talk about chocolate? Dang, he was totally playing me. I can hear him now, telling the other students -- dude-- the older women - talk to them about chocolate, you should see the dreamy look they get in their eyes. Then you’re free and clear to jab them. He walks away and makes notes on my chart and walks past without smiling. I guess our little moment is over.

His boss comes over a few minutes later to check on my IV and says it is fine. He also asks me to open my mouth as wide as I can. What’s with these guys? He explains, unprompted, that they need to know how wide I can open my mouth because they’re going to be putting an anaesthesia tube down my throat. Oh. The boss also asks, less suggestively, if I have any loose teeth.

“Uh, no.” Apparently they don’t want to knock any of those out with the anaesthesia tube either. Wait. Just how hard are they jamming the tube down there?

He tells me I look nervous. I want to tell him that it could be because they are going to put me under and then attack me with a tooth-busting tube, but instead I say “I’m about to have knee surgery, you know.” I say it behind my hand, confidentially, and he plays along with “Oh, you don’t say?” and we all have a laugh. It isn’t funny at all, of course. I guess I am nervous.

Eventually as my bed is wheeled into the operating room, a nurse introduces himself as Brett. He comes out and grabs my hand—and I decide I am not falling for anything this time, I am watching this one-- but I don’t see him holding any sharp objects to poke me with. Brett speaks in the exact same accent as the character Chase on House. It makes me glad he is the hand-holding nurse. The room is impossibly bright, way, way too bright – and there are at least 8 people in there.

I ask Brett, “Are all of you going to be working on me?”

“Of course! And there’s a student watching. ” The student waves, but I can’t wave back. My anaesthetist chocoholic buffet guy and his boss are there, and they are now holding my other hand and worrying about my IV input spot.

The next thing I know I am waking up shuddering and shaking like a junkie in the recovery room and my knee really hurts, and my operation is finished. How did that all happen so fast? Apparently the operation took 2 hours, but it felt like less than a minute. Anaesthesia is crazy powerful.

Once I finish my anaesthesia comedown, I start to take stock of things. First thing: oh good, they did the correct leg. Whew! Second thing: my IV spot is no longer where it used to be, but instead, there is the beginning of an enormous Oreo cookie-sized black bruise beginning to form there. I check the other arm – there is dark bruising and a hole on the back of my hand there too – but still, no bandage – and finally in the crook of my other arm, I see it – the remnants of a third IV spot, the one they actually used. They had to move it twice during surgery.

Damn chocoholic buffet guy. Shouldn’t he have been studying instead of skipping class and visiting expensive hotel dessert bars?


  1. You had me laughing out loud, Cathy. Thank you so much for posting your stories! Love the bit about the chocoholic buffet guy explaining how to get women of a certain age to forget that they are about to be stuck with a needle. I'll bet that works on alot of us.

  2. Me too on the laugh out loud, although in my case it was the "Wait. Just how hard are they jamming the tube down there?" bit since I was thinking *exactly* that. Nice to see your sense of humour wasn't impacted by repeated IV attacks.