At 22 months post my top surgery, I visited the surgeon yesterday to ask whether he would fix the dog ears at the ends of my scars and two small “pouches” in the center of my chest. I called them my tobacco pouches.
My appointment was for 16:00 and I walked into the surgery fully convinced he was just going to have a look and tell me to make an appointment at a later date to do the actual reparation work.
When the nurse told me to take off my shirt and handed me the mosquito-sized gown, I was still calm and collected. We made small talk about the student unrest at universities. Then the surgeon walked in, greeted me by hand and said, “Ok, let’s fix you up.”
Huh? Straight away? My adrenaline levels shot through the stratosphere.
“Um, ok,” I meekly consented, thinking I might as well get it over and done with. If I had to return, my nerves might just not come to the party.
He started coloring in under my arms and on my chest, using a purple koki pen. Then I had to lie down. My heart was repeatedly setting new Olympic records for shot put into my throat and I swallowed hard. “Down, boy!” I mentally chastised it.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the doctor getting a humongous syringe ready. It was almost the size of the gadget my mom used for cake decorating.
“This will only be a sharp prick and it will burn a little,” he warned. Meh! Again I was reminded of my mom, this time of her pin cushion – and the pin cushion was me. He prodded repeatedly, swapping the empty first syringe for a second one, just as huge, on the third area.
“It’s not as bad as at the dentist,” I joked, lying through my clenched teeth, trying in vain to conjure a tropical island with exotic birds in my mind. All I saw was the ceiling of the room and the massive syringe…
At last the anesthetic was pumped into the areas where he would cut. By this time my hands were playing a piano symphony of their own and I was grateful that I had to lie on them (why are the beds in operating theaters so bloody narrow?!).
The nurse smiled reassuringly at me and patted my shoulder. “You are doing fine!” She too was lying.
To take my mind off what was happening below my chin, she started telling the doctor about the student unrest I told her about. He asked me some questions about it and I croaked out answers – my vocal cords were quivering along with the rest of my body.
Soon we started chatting about other things – what surgical sutures were made of originally and how the material changed over the years. I learnt that an apocryphal explanation for the word Nylon is that it is a combination of New York and London: NY-Lon. He showed me how the needle was part of the suture. And I was still imagining surgeons threading the sutures through the eyes of needles…
Then the conversation diverged to cadavers and autopsies – right up my alley of interest in the macabre. We covered topics from grave robbers to the preservative of cadavers with formaldehyde. By then I had almost forgotten that I was being cut and sewed up and only felt an occasional tug as he tightened a stitch. I might as well have been a cadaver.
The nurse cleaned me up and dressed the wounds. The doctor said his goodbyes with a few last instructions and I could get dressed.
The bones in my legs had somehow dissolved during the past 40 minutes and I had to hold on to the bed not to topple over.
I walked out of the surgery with bandy legs, my hands still tremoring as if I had knocked back not only a few, but the whole barrel, feeling like a staggering Frankenstein’s Monster – but immensely relieved that it is over and done with!
Today I’m sore, but satisfyingly so.
* As always, Wikipedia provides a lot of information about the history and development of sutures and surgical needles.