Meanwhile, back in the waiting room, the Admitting Nurse tried to get Susan to go home and leave me in surgery.
“They just won’t dispense pain medications without the original script,” she observed.
“I know,” said Susan, who had just come back from arguing with the Pharmacist.
After she had waiting patiently with her ticket for the cheery computer voice to call her to the window, the Pharmacist had tiredly explained – for apparently the ten thousandth time – that without the original drug script (the one I had forgotten at home) he couldn’t dispense any opiates.
“When’s he having surgery?” he inquired, holding the bottle of Vicoden.
“Right now.” There was a detectable firmness in Susan’s voice. .
“Oh,” he replied. There was an awkward pause. “That’s a problem.”
“Yes, it is,” said Susan, beginning to hiss slightly.
“It is … yes” repeated the Pharmacist, feeling suddenly a bit vulnerable. It was becoming apparent that waving the bottle of meds in front of the woman whose husband was – even now— in surgery was not such a good idea. He put the bottle under the counter out of sight and, looking surreptitiously around, leaned forward. He raised an eyebrow toward the security camera. “They really won’t let me,” he said in a low voice, as if (if it were up to him) he would just as soon happily hand her a box of Oxycontin samples and be done with it.
Back upstairs in the surgery waiting room, Susan tracked down the Admitting Nurse. When the nurse confirmed that an original script was necessary, she asked if the doctor could reissue one.
“No … I don’t think so … no,” the nurse said deliberatively, holding firm to the primary rule of nursing, which is: First, do no annoying the doctor. “You live here in Tacoma,” she ventured, “You could go back and get it. You’ve got plenty of time.”
Somehow, being told that her husband would be in surgery for “plenty of time” was not comforting to Susan. In fact, it was a bit alarming. “I’m not leaving him in surgery,” she declared. “I’ll just give him some of my pain meds when we get home.”
“But … ,” the nurse began.
“I am not leaving,” Susan growled.
The nurse relented. This was a losing battle. Let her stay. Besides, it was better than tracking down the designated drivers who left, especially the idiots who tried to run as many errands as they could during a surgery. Just last week some woman finally answered her cell phone from a salon and asked – as if the Recovery Room were a doggy daycare – if “Dougy” could stay “just a little bit longer” because her foil treatment was taking longer than expected.
“Okay,” she said. “We’ll load him up so that you can get him home, and then you can come back and get the prescription filled when you can.”
“That’ll work,” agreed Susan. “He’ll be happy about that.”
“Oh,” replied the nurse as she disappeared back into the surgical ward, “He’ll be real happy, all right.”
A couple of hours went by.
Finally, a doctor emerged into the waiting room. “Nelson?” he inquired at large. When Susan indicated herself, he continued. “Would you come with me?” he said, gesturing toward a conference room.
Susan’s stomach tightened. While it’s not necessarily bad to be called back to a conference room, it’s never good. No doctor ever calls you back into the conference room to announce that he’s just pulled off something worthy of “ER” or “House.”
Back in the room the surgeon immediately tried to put her mind at ease. “The surgery went well,” he said “We didn’t do anything we didn’t expect to do,”
“But we found something we didn’t expected.”
She tensed. In her experience, when a doctor finds something “unexpected,” it is always something very, very bad.
“A tendon was missing.”
“Missing?” Susan queried, relaxing again from both relief and from interest. Maybe she was married to a medical anomaly.
“He’s ruptured the Long Head tendon at some point and we couldn’t reattach it.”
“Oh,” she said relaxing a bit more, “You mean it was retracted?”
“Exactly.” Now it was the surgeon who was relaxing. It was always a relief to talk with someone who knew the lingo. Then he went on to explain the rest of the details in the technical jargon of the Orthopod.
When the surgeon was through, a different nurse took Susan back to the Recovery Room. There it became quite apparent I was, indeed, and in the technical jargon of the Admitting Nurse, completely “loaded up” and really, really happy.
But that’s for next time.