This post is a continuation of Adventures in Surgery I: It’s what you wear. You should definitely read that one first if you want to appreciate what’s going on here.
Everyone, in my experience, is always chipper in the OR.
And true to form, everyone was beaming at me when I entered the Operating Room as if I were Queen Elizabeth approaching her coronation: the anesthesiologist, the nurses, the patient advocate … everyone. Even the surgeon seemed to have recovered from the disappointment of me spoiling his earlier joke.
The people in the OR really seem to like what they do to you, which makes you wonder — “What do they really do to you?” Sure, they do the surgery, but that doesn’t really explain the upbeat anticipation. My personal theory is that as soon as you are out, they dress you up in a funny costume, parade you about in something like a Martegras parade and take pictures of you for some secret Facebook site. Either that or they have all just pilfered hits of your Versed. I’m okay with the former (and I had, after all, dressed for the occassion), but not the latter. Those are my happy drugs.
Anyway, after the ceremonial “donning of the surgical mask” by my attendant, we made our way into the OR. I noticed that the only ones without masks on in the room were me — the guy getting cut — and the surgeon — guy doing the cutting. I found that troubling. Interesting, but troubling. “Here he is,” announced my nurse tour guide to the surgeon as if presenting me to the cardinal, and he regathered up my train of lines and IV bags to facilitate my procession, “Let’s see if he can get up on the table.”
Now, once you’re up on the table, the cheerful OR suddenly springs like a venus fly trap around the fly. Hands — generally very, very cold hands — fly from all directions into your gradually narrowing field of vision, primping and prodding you into this or that position or adding “positioning devices” that they will soon use to contort and strap you into the best position for the surgery. Other hands place electrodes on various parts of your torso, clip sensors to your fingers, or neaten and untangle the growing web of lines leading from your body. And all the while, everyone explains what they are doing, giving the room a low buzz of intentionally calm voices out of which it is hard to discern any particular stream.
The blood pressure cuff that someone had put on my left leg began to inflate. Then the anesthesiologist took his position at the head, and the surgeon approached the table.
Just like so many sacrifices over the millennia. The victim must be led happily to the altar, willing and welcomed. At the altar, the victim is secured, the seer prepares to oversee the ritual from the head, and the priest makes ready at the center. We could have been before an audience of ancient Jews, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, or Aztecs. Everyone would know what was coming next. The only thing I was missing was a garland of flowers.
“I think we’re ready,” the surgeon says. This time he has a mask.
“Lock and load, Doc,” I reply, “Crank up the tunes and let’s go.”
The anesthesiologist begins to incant something…
As to the remainder of this story, let me admit right now that I am dependent completely upon my sources. I don’t remember anything — anything that anyone, including me, said or did for the next twelve hours. A few few dim shards of images, like pieces of a dream that you try to pull back but just can’t, are all that I possess. But that’s the next segment. But one thing I know for sure — I had my nice underwear on when the lights went out.