A smiley face seals the deal

Well, the surgery went well, and by “well” I mean that it took an expected two hours or so and ended with a repaired knee joint. The outpatient center was in its own way, beyond imagination — with comfy chairs and a fancy mocha bar (lest we forget we are in the Pacific Northwest). Susanne wondered if she shouldn’t just show up there from time to time to get some work done. 

After getting prepped via a series of 12,783 questions, 73 percent of which were “which knee is it,” I drew my initials on the left leg and added a smile. The surgeon was grateful I hadn’t sketched a frown, but honestly, how could I have gone into the experience with such negativity? After knowing this doctor for five months, he said he was a Christian and asked if we would mind if he said a prayer before the surgery. This inspired the following thoughts, in no particular order, but which occurred to me in something like 2.3 seconds:

1. All his training, residency, education, and experience, and he doesn’t find that sufficient? Is the prayer for the last nth percent chance that something will go wrong?

2. If a surgeon wants to have a prayer before going into the operating theater, for Pete’s sake, LET HIM DO IT. 

3. The Catholics pray so differently — so often for penance and nearly always from a standard script. Perhaps the Hail Holy Queen would suffice?

4. Was there a measurable quantity of irony I could point to here that this doctor was praying for my knee? Or just conceptual irony?

We told him to go ahead and pray, and he asked for good healing on my joint so I could go and serve others. That was a little presumptive of him, but I don’t technically have anything against that, per se, anyway.

I watched the ceiling go by as I was wheeled into operating suite 3. Now then, I understand that good doctors like to have their tools of the trade laid out neatly and orderly, but there is something about seeing the odd single-piece, stainless steel hammer on the table to give one pause. Great pause. I have had a lumbar puncture before, which means I have had a 10-inch needle inserted into my spine. Scratch that — I’ve had FIVE spinal taps in this life. I’ve had seven strabismus surgeries on my lazy eyes, one of which was, believe it or not, intentionally interrupted so that I could sit up and have the surgeon pull on plastic sutures she’d attached to my eye muscles so that she could “fine tune” her work. Having the sensation of one’s eye being tugged against the eye socket while having no actual feeling of pain has definitely been one of the odder moments in my 38.5 years on the planet.

But these surreal experiences pale in comparison to the hammer. Surgery was hammer time? Why was such an instrument necessary, exactly?* Gratefully, I was soon woozy with the poison — erm, anesthesia. The anesthesiologist seemed to get a kick out of not even asking me to count back from 10. I was there one second and gone the next.

Waking up some hours later I had the now-familiar queasiness from having whatever hellacious concoction poured into me. It took me three hours to get it together enough to get out of bed and get into the house, where I have now planted my derriere for the next three weeks or so. First the Blizzard of 2008, now the Knee Mending of 2009 begins. I’m sure it’s because I made no specific resolutions for the year other than to be open to new experiences. I should know to be extremely specific and not allow any definitional latitude. But nooooo, I had to say, “be open to new experiences,” blah blah blah, so that shiny hammers and titanium screws could wander their way into my life and my body and here I have to count them as wins in my exploration of new freaking experiences.

Be that as it may, I am on the mend. I have discovered, vicariously through Susanne, that Tallman’s Pharmacy on Main Street is chock full of friendly employees, that Oxycontin does not work with the needs of my stomach, that purple Gatorade Fierce turns green after only 20 minutes in one’s stomach, and that I was wrong when I thought that Washington State allowed marijuana for medical use.

So many lovely new experiences, it’s a joy to have arrived in this new year. Seriously, however, I am looking forward to four months from now, when my knee is expected to make a full recovery. Full recovery I can get behind quite easily.

*Those reading this who may know the answer to this question, please be alerted that I am asking it rhetorically only. I do not need any comments with technical answers.

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