The Emergency Room (Or: How I Spent My Christmas Vacation, Part 1.)
(Click here for part 2.)

By Joe Gerardi
January 5, 2001

This is a 2-part article on my week between Christmas and New Year. I was really looking forward to it because The Amazon and I both took off the week between the 2 holidays, and it was the first time off we've had since we moved to Georgia in April 1999. We had no plans, just to relax and spend some quiet time together.

Christmas night I went to bed as usual. I awoke about 2:30 AM with a pain in my belly up near the breastbone. "Epigastric region, near the sternum." (I wll refer to the medical terminology when I can to appear more intelligent, but first I will write it in plain english so we can both understand it.) And hell, I always thought "sternum" was those little cans of stuff that burn and fail miserably at keeping free buffet food in bars warm.

The pain ("discomfort," but I won't even start on that term) continued and worsened so that by 4:00 AM I couldn't stand up straight. I know myself well enough to realize that I gotta take care of stuff like this. Normally, I ignore it and it goes away, but 3 times previously, this happened before - in 1977, in 1980, and in 1983. Each time it was diagnosed as an infection of the lymph system (Lymphadenitis) and an antibiotic was prescribed and everything was again fine. So I figured I could trot off to the emergency room, get the prescription after explaining it in proper medical terms to the doctor - figuring I could impress him that I was smart enough to diagnose myself properly, showing just how good I was and avoid getting a needle - and things would be fine.

So I get dressed and trot off to the emergency room. I walk in, tell the nurse (A guy named Dan who went about 6'3" and 230 pounds. There's something inherently wrong with a 6'3" male nurse named Dan. Nurses should be about 5'5", blonde, named "Bambi," drop-dead gorgeous, and wearing a teensy-weensy nurses outfit. I can dream, can't I?) that I have a pain in my belly up near the breastbone, and I probably need an antibiotic because I've had Lymphadenitis before and it feels just like that. He takes my name and tells me to sit.

After a short time, Dan escorts me to a room, hands me one of those  backless hospital gowns and tells me to put it on. Huh? I just have this little infection. I don't need to embarrass (pronounced "en-bare-ass") myself this way, but he's having none of it. He leaves, I take off my shirt and put on the gown, backwards, so the opening is in front, but that's as far as I'm prepared to go. A few minutes later a different nurse comes in (at least this one is female, but meets none of my other criteria) and attaches those little round pads to my arm and to my chest in 3 places, and attaches wires to them by snaps. I ask what these are for, and she tells me that they can monitor me from the desk this way. I wonder how they can tell anything by attaching a couple of round post-it notes that snap-attach to wires, and start to fear that people are finding out all sorts of things about me every time I wear a polo shirt that has snaps instead of buttons. She turns on a machine, and all of a sudden, all sorts of data about me start appearing on the screen. She leaves.

I realize that emergency rooms have a lot of things to do with "real" emergencies, so I'm not upset that it's taking a while for the doctor to come in and give me my prescription. Besides, I can watch what the machine does and try to make it do things that I decide. I stop breathing and watch my respiration drop on the machine. I start swinging my arms wildly about and see my heart rate climb. I figure I'll have them back in here trying to figure out what's going on. I tense up and watch my BP climb. This is FUN! And, it takes my mind off the pain. No one comes in.

Sometimes, hospitals can be so impersonal.

After 20 minutes or so, the Dr. comes in. His name is Dr. Pohl (pronounced "Pole") and he tells me that he's just come on duty and "we're" going to find out what's going on. I explain in all the pseudo-medical jargon I know (and my mother was a surgical nurse, and my brother is a Surgical Physician's Assistant, so I know a lot) exactly what's wrong with me, and that I just need an antibiotic. Just like Dan, he's having none of it. He starts doing his examination stuff and I'm cooperating very carefully. See, my mother used to whack us if we were in any way disrespectful to doctors, including fidgeting during the exam. He can tell from the stethescope that I smoke. He shoves 2 stiff fingers into my solar plexus to see how much agony I'm in. He asks all sorts of questions. He reassures me that "we'll" figure this out. He tells me to stay put for a few minutes and leaves. His manner is professional, and he works with precision and care. I feel reassured.

Next, a different nurse comes in (still female, but just not up to standards) rolling a machine and tells me to roll over. I ask why and she tells me she's going to take an EKG. Now, dammit, I'm not having a heart attack, I just need a friggin' antibiotic! Stop scaring me this way!

It's amazing how little attention the medical staff pay to the patient's requests. She runs the EKG, which takes all of about 15 seconds, and leaves. Another nurse (God! Are NONE of these nurses up to my standards?) comes in with a cup and tells me to drink it down in one gulp. This one I know. It's called a "G.I. Cocktail" and she tells me it's laced with Lidocaine for the pain. I show her my best "I-used-to-be-in-a-rock-band-and-can-knock-one-back-with-the-best" shot-drinking technique, and my throat immediately goes numb. The pain goes away, too, so I'm ready to get dressed and leave, because the longer you stay in any part of a hospital - whether patient or visitor, it doesn't matter - the more likely you are to get a needle, and I'm having NONE of that. She tells me to get back in the bed and relax. I ask if i can go outside and have a cigarette if I promise not to pass out or die or anything, and Dan offers to escort me. He's a smoker too, and this gets him a chance to slip one in between breaks, so he's VERY grateful. I go out and have a smoke and then return to my room.

With the pain in abeyance, and my nicotine urge satisfied, I get sleepy, because it's now around 5:30 AM and I've been up all night. I'm dozing and the "cocktail nurse" (God, wouldn't THAT be a great concept in healthcare!) comes in and tells me that I'm going for an Ultrasound. See, this is where I find problems with the medical industry. I come in with a tummyache, and they're checking to see if I'm pregnant. At least there's no needles involved, so my heart rate stays down. A med tech comes in and asks if i want to be rolled to the ultrasound in the bed, or would I prefer a wheelchair. I reply that I'd just as soon walk. She looks confused. (She also doesn't meet my nurse fantasy, but I don't hold it against her: She's not a nurse.) She asks the charge nurse if such a thing is possible, and the nurse says "OK."

I walk over, med tech hands me over to the Ultrasound Lady and she takes me into a room. She asks if I know about these and I tell her about my three kids and how I saw them for the first time this way. She tells me to relax, and trying to be witty, I tell her to look for my car keys in there, too. She is NOT amused. She spreads that goop on my belly and starts rubbing the magic wand on me. She's very methodical. She's putting together a panoramic view of my insides. She is nice, and tells me that (though she shouldn't be telling me this) my gallbladder is riddled with stones.

WHAT?!?!?!?

She freezes the picture and starts counting. She stops at 24 and tells me there's more than that, but that's all she can see from this angle. Now, my father had gallstones, and it led to his gallbladder being removed. REMOVED! That's gonna mean needles, and I.V.'s and all sorts of stuff that they're going to stick you with. I don't really have problems with scalpels, retractors, hemostats, suction, gauze, sponges, and the like. Just needles. (OK, catheters, too, but EVERY guy is afraid of those.) If there were a way to go through surgery with just a topical as anesthesia, I would have no problems at all.

She cleans the goop off me me, and shakily, I go back to the Emergency Room. All I can think about is the friggin' needles they're gonna stick into me. I feel like Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape," and I'm trying to find a motorcycle so I can get safely away. They reattach the snaps to the monitor, and even I can see my vitals are spiking. We're talking NEEDLES here! The doctor comes back in and tells me I have gallstones, and that he's spoken to the surgeon, wants to admit me me right now, prep me for surgery and get it taken care of. The monitor starts beeping loudly as my heart rate is in the upper hundreds. Adrenalin is squirting out my ears.

It's amazing how in times of extreme crisis the mind can work with such clarity. In the space of a nanosecond I came to the realization that I'm not going to get out of this one and at best, all I can do is stall for a short time. I explain that the 97-year old lady that lives with The Amazon since The Amazon's mother died fell on Christmas day, and I have to be there to help. Now, whilst the lady DID fall, it wasn't one of those senior-citizen-mandatory-hip-replacement falls. She stumbled over the rug, and had a really soft fall and was only embarrassed, nothing more, but I thought it a great excuse that I had to carry her around and at best, I couldn't possibly do this until tomorrow. I gain one day, and have some time to steel myself for the inevitable. Surprisingly, he accepts this excuse. He calls the surgeon back and explains the situation to him, and the surgeon tells him that I can have the next day. I am so VERY smug that I got out of the needles for 24 hours. My heart rate goes back down. The monitor stops beeping.

The doctor explains that because we have the one day's grace, he can then get all the blood work done today.

Smoke starts pouring out of the monitor as it tries to keep up with my heart rate going up and down and my blood pressure spiking to the point where now, blood's shooting out of my ears with the adrenalin.

Blood work means needles. I have nowhere to go, because I set all this up. I had explained to the doctor about my fear of needles and he reassures me that it's only 1 needle. ("Stick" as they call it.) He's sympathetic, but adamant.

Dan comes in with all that disgusting stuff they use to stab holes in you. He, too, knows about my worries, and tells me he'll be as gentle as he can be. I ask for a barf bucket ("Emesis Tray") and he hands me that little kidney-shaped thingy they always use. I tell him that that just ain't gonna cut it, so he comes back with a huge plastic bed pan. I also ask for those little vials of ammonia they use to revive you when you pass out, and he says he has those ready, too.

Knowing I'm going to pass out, I try to hyperventilate so that my respiration stays up. I also tense up to raise my blood pressure to avoid fainting. I tell Dan I'm ready, and to let me know when he's going to do it. He replies that he will, he just has to finish setting up.  I'm waiting about 10 seconds and NOT looking, and waiting, and realize something:

He's already done it.

WHAT A STICK! I never knew it happend. I start to turn my head and he tells me not to look. Now, telling someone not to look is simply NOT going to work. Try telling someone not to think about the word "Hippopotamus" and they will spend the rest of their lives thinking about the word "Hippopotomus" and hating you for ruining their lives by making them think of the word "Hippopotamus." I look, and can see the little butterfly tabs on the needle in my arm. I'm still breathing kind of heavy, and for once, don't have that dizziness coming over me. He fills his 2 vials, and does the little cotton and Band-Aid thing they do and leaves after I tell him "Good stick!" and that I'm OK. And I really am. I don't feel the least bit faint. All that keeps going through my mind is "Good stick!", "Good Stick!". The monitor stops smoking and beeping.

The doctor comes back in after about 20 minutes and tells me that all the blood chemistry is in line with gallstones: My liver and kidney functions are elevated and that's to be expected because of the stones blocking the bile duct. The one last thing he wants is chest X-Rays, so I totter off and have those done. They develop them immediately and I can read an X-Ray and see that everything looks good in my lungs. See, when a smoker has chest X-Rays, we automatically look for the spots, but the lungs were clear. I head back to the ER. They hand me my instructions (be here at 5:30 AM and no food or drink after midnight) and send me home. Well, I can't eat, but at least I don't have to take one of those enemas (an entirely different form of "stick.")

Now, granted, I made it through the blood work with nary a hitch, but I still had to go through it. I remembered something Lewis Grizzard did right before his first operation, and contemplated repeating that: That is, I was going to go to Checkers, and eat about 9 Chili Dogs at 11:30  that night to get even the next day. It was only the fact that the OR staff had nothing to do with the ER that stopped me.

In the next article I will continue through the operation.

Lap. Choli Sys. Poss Harm. Scalpel (Or: How I Spent My Christmas Vacation, Part 2.)

By Joe Gerardi
January 23, 2001

(This is part 2 of a 2-part article on my week between Christmas and New Year. The first part dealt with the trip to the emergency room and the subsequent diagnosis of gallstones. This part will deal with the operation itself.)

OK. The night before the operation we get to bed early, because we have to be at the hospital at 5:30 AM. Now, early is a relative term. For some, that would probably mean no later than 10:00 PM. For me, it was a little before midnight. See, I figured that I was going to be sleeping a good part of the following day, so there was no real reason to get a good night's rest. Therefore, I wasn't too concerned with how much sleep I got. Besides, I figured you can't feel too much pain if you're asleep, so I hoped I would sleep through the worst parts.

What I wasn't prepared for was The Amazon getting up at 3:00 AM so she can go through "The Ritual." I will digress here a little to tell you about "The Ritual:"

When a guy gets ready in the morning, it seldom takes more than 20 minutes, 25 TOPS, but that only if he performs all 3 "S's." We simply cannot conceive that more time will be required. Not so with women. They have the shower, which takes more than 35 minutes in an of itself, and starts with things like looking in the mirror for microscopic traces of cellulite, wrinkles, fat, age spots, wayward hairs, and other things that I simply have no idea of what they can be. The Amazon is drop-dead gorgeous, so I don't see why she does this. I've spent less time looking for money I've misplaced, or children I've lost than women spend looking in the mirror. I know when to cut my losses and accept that they're gone.

Then there's the actual shower itself. How any human can stand under what is, in effect, compressed steam, and survive is beyond my ken. Lobsters cook in cooler water than women shower in, and the resultant aftereffect is that I end up showering in water just a tad colder than the Niagara River in February. I really hope that they're enjoying themselves in there, for I have no idea why it could take that long. They're smaller than us men, hence there's less surface area to actually wash and rinse, and there's no way any man could take that kind of heat for that long without various, and frankly, important appendages actually melting off our bodies.

Anyway, shower finished, then comes the makeup part of "The Ritual." I had no idea that there were so many layers of stuff necessary. The Amazon doesn't wear a lot of makeup, but I can skim coat a room easier - and with less coats - than women have to apply. (NOTE: Guys, this is the time you should make a mad dash to get your shower in. Granted, there's no hot water, but believe me, it's better than the alternative, which comes next.) Then, they go back  into the bathroom to do stuff with their hair, generally accompanied with statements like "My hair couldn't look any worse if I tried." and "I have GOT to do something with this hair.", which is what I though they were doing in the first place. Now, if guys wait until after the ladies are done doing their hair, they will probably get to shower sometime in the next month. That's why I say run for it when they're applying the warpaint. At least you'll be clean, even if you do have hypothermia.

After this, then there is the "Outfit Selection Process." I'm not going to go into this now, mainly because I'm blowing off a lot of great stuff for future articles here, and I hate wasting good material. Suffice it to say that it goes on for a long time and then women are finally ready.

This is how I was awakened at 3:00 AM. The bathroom light shining in my eyes, disturbing the little sleep I had alotted myself, and The Amazon dressed, and ready to go. Realizing the futility of this, I simply got up. I got up, forgetting that I couldn't have coffee. I was miserable, tired and scared. That's how I began the day...

I got to the hospital, got checked in, and was taken to pre-op. Here they give you another of those embarrassing hospital gowns to put on, and then jump into bed. The Pre-Op Nurse comes in. Her name is Nurse Gillis. She still doesn't fit my requirements, but she's the person that's going to stick the I.V. in my arm, so I'm VERY polite. I explain all my fears, and she is incredibly understanding, telling me that there will only be 1 stick the whole day, everything else will go through the I.V. She waits until I screw up my courage, go through my hyperventilating and tensing up act and then does another great stick and it's in. Now, this time, I can feel myself getting a little woozy, and she patiently rubs my neck and talks to me, and then does something I've never seen before:

I'm in a pre-op room, but in reality it's just a curtained-off section of a large room. She grabs the curtain, whips it back, and yells, "We got a fainter here, girls!" All at once, all the other nurses come over and start chatting with me, rubbing a wet, cold, washcloth on my neck, and chattering away the whole time. It worked. The wooziness disappears, and I am eternally in Nurse Gillis' debt for doing the exact right thing to get me through the ordeal.

Another lady comes over and washes me with betadine, but never embarrasses me by washing in places that only people with my specific permission (like Bambi- see part 1) should go. I keep looking at the tube in my hand, and pointedly NOT looking at where she's washing, hoping I'm not too red. Then she's gone, my dignity still intact. I had asked to sign a living will, so that I don't end up the State Vegetable of Georgia should something go wrong, and they send for Sister O'Hara. I swear I'm not making this up. That's her real name. while we're waiting for her to come, The Amazon is allowed to come in and sit with me. I'm all proud as a peacock because I've had 2 needles in 2 days and haven't passed out yet. She looks skeptical, but Nurse Gillis backs me up, and I feel even prouder.

The surgeon comes in. He talks to me, tells me about the operation and is scaring me a little bit. Surgeons should look like Lorne Greene. You know, that wise, fatherly look. Or at least like Chad Everett on Medical Center, that great TV show of the early 70's. This surgeon looks like Bob Newhart, mannerisms and all, except he has a full head of hair. Well, at least he seems to know what he's talking about, and all the nurses seem to treat him with respect, so I'm not too put off.

Sister O'Hara comes in and gives me the paperwork. Talk about a caricature! Red hair, thick brogue, friendly attitude, she could have been straight out of a movie. I sign the paperwork, and they're ready to take me away. Now the O.R. nurse comes and gets me. It's about 7:00 AM, and for the life of me, I cannot understand how people can he so awake and cheerful at this time of the morning. This lady - I never got her name, she was already in scrubs - is about the most cheerful woman I ever met.  I figure it's because she knows that it's not her getting sliced and diced today. I would be happy too, I imagine. She's telling me how they used to videotape the procedure and give a copy of the tape to the patient, and that when her's was done, she'd seen so many that she never even watched it. It sparked a morbid thought in my head. I asked if I could get a couple of the stones after the operation. Hey, I figure if I'm paying a gazillion dollars for this, I ought at least to have something to show for it. She agrees, merrily smiling and happy as a lark. She tells me to say goodbye to The Amazon, I kiss her goodbye, and I tell her that I love her, and my watch is in my clothing bag, in case I die, and my credit card is hidden, in case I don't. Happy Nurse and another nurse start to roll me to the O.R. Here we go. I'm not really scared, but I will admit I'm somewhat anxious.

They roll me around a corner, and place one of those hair covers on my head. Now, this is SOP, I understand, but did it HAVE to be pink, with pretty little flowers on it? I comment on this and they offer to get me on of the standard blue ones, but I tell them that I'm comfortable in my masculinity, and it's ok.

One of the reasons I would like to work in a hospital (the only reason: There's too many friggin' needles there otherwise) is that it's ok to bang into doors with gurneys with people on them. I always thought it cool the way they go slamming around like that. I come up to the O.R. door, and WHAM! they just keep chugging along. They roll the gurney next to the operating table while I take a look around.

It's not really as big as I thought it would be. In fact, it's kind of crowded. There's about 4 people in here already, and they're doing all those things that they learned from the Spanish Inquisition Training Manual: Playing with wicked-looking instruments, arranging the tools of torture in the proper order so that the most pain will be inflicted, that sort of thing. They all look up as I'm rolled in and smile. I'm sure they were sincere smiles, but all I see are evilly gleaming teeth as they ready to carve me up and feed me to animals that root around the dumpster looking for food. The instrument tray looks just like what was next to Mel Gibson when he was tortured at the end of "Braveheart." I realize that I have the same options as old Mel, so I realize there's no escape here.

I ask the Happy Nurse, in a final act of dignity, if I can climb over to the operating table myself, rather than that humiliating way they lift you over on the sheet. She says "sure," so I hop on over. It's surprisingly narrow, there's less than a handspan of space on either side of me, I'm told to center myself, and then they put a blanket over my legs, and then a strap, as if the first moments of torture are when they get to sadistically secure me to the room, so that when I struggle, they can laugh at the futility. Then they attach these two perpendicular extensions to the table, near my shoulders, and ask me to extend my arms outward.

The Anesthesiologist comes over and tells me he's going to "put me under." I figure, attached as I am to the table, he can't put me under anything without first loosening my straps and enabling me to escape, so I'm all for it. I tell him that I suffer from Sleep Apnea, knowing full well that they'll intubate me (where I get to deep throat a firehose) and he says he'll wait till I'm under to tube. I like this guy! He starts injecting a white fluid that I see going through the I.V. tube slowly. He say that when it gets to my wrist, it might feel cold. It gets there, but at best can be considered "cool," not cold at all. Now it's in my system and the Happy nurse says "I'm going to put this oxygen mask over your face." I'm waiting, and I'm not feeling sleepy at all, so I figure it's time for a witty line. I say "I know this is a Catholic hospital, and with my body in position like this, I see one hammer or nail, and anesthetized or not, I'm OUTTA here!" The entire O.R. cracks up laughing, and I think I can like these people. After all, they laugh at my jokes. So when is this drug gonna take eff...

"Joe! Hey, Joe! Do you want some lunch?"

"Sure. But I don't eat red meat, so Turkey, Chicken or fish only, please. A Tuna sandwich will be fine."

All of a sudden, I'm wide awake, and realize that I'm in a hospital, and what I originally came in for. It's weird, though, I don't feel woozy, or any pain, or anything like that. I feel like I just got a good night's sleep. Now, when I wake up, I'm one of those irritating chaps that is at full consciousness and standing in less than a second, so this took a lot longer to write than it actually was. I'm lying there, and I remember my drill from when I was on the U.S. Ski Team and was taught how to come out of a really bad fall: I start by moving my fingers, hands, toes, legs, etc. Then I reach "down there." Every guy in the world, after any operation - even a tonsilectomy - will check that nothing was removed that they really think should remain. You guys know what I mean. Fortunately, they left that (those?) where they belong. I gingerly touch my stomach, and can feel the bandages, of which there are 4, and they're quite fluffy, and tape, but no pain. I put it down to Morphine as a painkiller, which is SOP for these operations, and figure I'm going to be whining in a while and better enjoy it while I can. Everything feels fine. Hell, I feel fine, so I sit up.

The nurses come over, they look me over, asking how I feel, I reply, "Fine," they talk to me for a few minutes, take my blood pressure, and say that everything went really well, and that I recovered a lot faster than they expected. Usually, that lunch question is just the start of a 30-minute cycle of talking to the patient to bring them out, and it's very rare that anyone even answers them, let alone says "yes" and tells them what they want. They're happy that I'm so alert, offer me a cup of ice for my thirst, and hand me my stones in a test tube. More on those later, but I'm doing so well that my scheduled 1-hour in post-op is cut to 15 minutes and they say I can go to my room. Before they wheel me away, and I ask the nurses that if we're going in an elevator, and there's people in it, can I please put the sheet over my head like they do with corpses, and then sit up suddenly? They think this is really funny, but can't allow that. Something about not wanting an epidemic of myocardial infarctions in an elevator, or some such rule, so I don't press the issue. So far, this ordeal hasn't been an ordeal at all, and I am feeling really good.

Then I get to my room.

The recovery room nurse comes in. Now, I'm NOT going to tell you her name, because I hate lawsuits, though I should, as a public service. I really think this lady was on more morphine than I was. The word "useless" doesn't begin to describe her. First, I ask about lunch, 'cause I really am hungry. She says it's on the way, and I remind her that I don't want red meat. She says that she'll make sure. Then she asks if I want more ice, and I tell her "Yes, please." She goes to get it, and another lady comes in and hooks me up to a machine that automatically takes my blood pressure every few minutes, so they have a chart that proves the patient has stabilized, and she takes my temperature, and leaves. I had just found a great television show that I really wanted to see when they allow The Amazon in, so I have to turn off the TV to be polite and not ignore her. She had checked on my condition with the nurses desk, and they told her how fast I woke up and how well I was doing, and she's really pissed that I'm doing so well. See, after an operation she had, she was a drooling, flopping, basket case, and was bedridden for 6 weeks, so she's mad at me for feeling good. I can never win.

After 30 minutes or so, The Amazon, sitting right next to me with her head leaning against the bed, and I fall asleep. We sleep for about 45 minutes, and I wake up, still holding hands, which makes me feel really good, and the nurse still hasn't brought the ice, let alone my lunch. I'm really hungry and thirsty, and am ready to perform the trick I have been saving for this time, so I beep the nurses desk and ask them for the ice. A voice that isn't my nurse's tells me it'll be right there. Then I start "The Trick:"

Hospitals will not let you leave after an operation until you pee. I learned this from The Amazon's operation, so I devised this plan: I didn't go to the bathroom at all when I got up at 3:00 AM, and held it the entire time. That way, I would go as soon as I was able to walk. The Amazon said this was a bad idea, because I might let go whilst I was under, but I figured "So what?" If I pee all over the O.R., or the O.R. staff, I would be unconscious, and never know about it, so there's little embarrassment there, and I wouldn't even have to clean it,  myself, or them up, and if I didn't, it would get me out of the hospital faster. I had no intention of staying overnight and take the chance on getting more needles, even though the hospital staff told me the day before that I should. So, while the nurse was coming, I rolled the I.V. tree and the BP machine into the bathroom with me, and timed it so that I would be hitting the water in the toilet as she walked in. I'm standing there with a full bladder, and trying, but nothing is coming out and I'm starting to worry. If she doesn't hear me going, they're not going to let me loose. Then, with a timing that that only happens in the movies, just as she walks in, Niagara starts to flow, and I yell "I'm peeing! Can I go home now?" She waits patiently for me to finish, I come out and climb back into bed. She removes the BP machine from my arm and rolls it across the room. It's beeping, she touches a button and it stops. Then she asks me why I beeped the desk. I reply "My ICE???" And she says "I'll go get you some." like it was the first she had ever heard of it. I also ask for my lunch, and she looks at me like I had just started talking in tongues. She says that I should stay in bed, and she'll check on it, but I should stay in bed!

She comes back in 2 minutes later with a big travel mug filled with ice, and checks to see that I'm still in bed. Then, she puts the ice on the counter all the ways across the room and leaves. I look to The Amazon, who's still sleeping, the ice, all the way on the other side of the room, and have no choice, but to get out of bed, roll the I.V. tree with me, and go get the ice. As I'm getting back into bed, the lady that hooked me up to the BP monitor comes in, asks what I'm doing out of bed, and then asks who disconnected me from the BP monitor. I tell her the nurse nurse left the ice there, and disconnected me, and she's furious because the other nurse turned it off, erasing the entire chart of collected BP's, so now I have to wait and go through it all again. She takes my temperature and leaves.

By now, it's about 3:30. The Amazon has awakened, I'm starving, and still no lunch. She offers to go get me something, but I'm angry because of the simple principle of the matter. I beep the nurses station again and ask for my food. They tell me that I already ate, and if I want more they'll get it for me. I tell them that I haven't eaten yet, unless I'm more stoned on the morphine than I thought, and could I please have something to eat, as long as it's not meat? (You ALL know what's going to happen here, don't you?) They tell me that they'll take care of it right away.

15 minutes later, in comes an orderly with a covered tray, and says "Here you go. Chicken Chow Mein." I can live with that. He puts the tray on those roll-away hospital thingys for food and leaves. I pull off the top, my mouth watering...

Pot Roast.

I felt like throwing the damn thing out the door of the room, but The Amazon stops me. She forces me to eat the rice and the cornbread, which I do, and the lady comes in and tells me it's time to take my temperature again. We had been joking the several times she had stopped in before, and when I open my mouth, she says "Uh-uh. This time I gotta do it from the other end." "Really?" I ask and she answers in the affirmative. Continuing our joking, I look at her and say "Oh, POOP." I turn on my side, start to pull the gown away and she bursts out laughing, and I enjoy the joke, but I moon her anyway. She's really laughing now. Her humor calmed me down somewhat, and after she took my temperature (orally, that is) I felt better. I told her I was getting ready to leave and she asks me if I'll stay until 6:00 PM because that's when her shift is over, and she thinks I'm a great patient. I feel even better now.

The nurse comes in and I tell she can take the tray. She looks at it and tells me that I didn't eat much, considering how much I whined about getting some food, and while seriously considering whether to punch her right on the mouth, I reply that I don't eat meat, that I told her that 4 times. She says that it was supposed to be Chow Mein, and that she'll get me another if I want. I tell her that I'd rather just go home if that's ok, and she says that if I really want to, I can. She takes out the I.V., which actually hurts more than when they put it in, but I contribute that to her displayed skills as a nurse, and I ask her to get everything ready for my discharge, and I'll get dressed. She leaves.

I get dressed, and wait for her to come back. True to form, it's 20 mintues later and no nurse. I grab my stuff, and The Amazon and I walk out to the nurses station. I'm standing there for several minutes, and one of the nurses asks if she can help me. I tell her that I'm just waiting to be discharged, and she doesn't believe me. I tell her that I'm serious, and she still doesn't believe me. I have to show her my hospital bracelet, she looks at the name, looks it up on a list and then REALLY doesn't believe me. She tells me that she thought I was a visitor, and that she never saw anyone look so good after an operation. I'm having a hard time believing all this because I really don't feel bad at all. My mouth is very dry, but that's all. My nurse comes out of a back room somewhere - obviously she was grabbing another hit of morphine - and looks at me like she never saw me before, and I tell her I'm ready to go. She walks over to a PC and starts filling out my discharge papers. I walk around to there, and she's checking by phone with the surgeon when he wants to see me at his office. She types in the date and time. Days later, true to form, while checking the date at the surgeon's office I discover that this paragon of health care entered the wrong phone number on the discharge papers. I don't mean that she missed a number or two, I mean she had the wrong exchange, the wrong number, EVERYTHING. The number she gave me was for a car dealership here in Savannah. When I finally went to the surgeon's, I found out that she had the wrong time too. This wasn't a typo, a mistake easily forgiven for someone hitting an adjacent key on the PC, She typed 9:00 AM, and the appointment was actually for 1:00 PM. That's a huge miss on the keyboard.

While standing there, the floor doctor comes over and asks if she can help me. I again tell her I'm just waiting to be discharged, and again, there is the look of disbelief. I tell her I'm fine, dammit, really. I'm not in any pain, and to prove it, I do a few Irish Stepdance steps there in the middle of the floor. I figure that if I show I'm ok once and for all, they'll leave me the hell alone, and I can get out of there before anyone can think of any shoddy reason to stick more needles in me. The nurse hands me the papers, the prescription, and tells me we're just waiting for transport to come up with a wheelchair. I'm not having any of this. I tell her I'm walking out of there, I'm not a damned invalid, and there's no reason I can't use the two legs God gave me. I cannot understand the strange look of incomprehension these people have when I tell them this. My mother used to say that to us all the time when we asked for a ride somewhere, and she was a nurse too. This nurse doesn't know what to say, so I take the lead and say "Well, thanks for everything. Lunch was fabulous. Soon you soon." and turn to leave. She tells me that she has to escort me out of the hospital, and hurries after me. Now, being a NY'er, I walk pretty fast, and she's taking a lot of quick steps to catch up. I'm keeping up a breezy air, and chattering with The Amazon to maintain the fact that I'm fine, and no, dammit, there ain't no friggin' reason in the world to shove another needle in me, so don't even think about it. We get to the exit, I turn and say "Bye," one last time and keep walking straight out of there. It figures that now is when I feel any aftereffects of the operation...

We make it to the car, and it's unusally cold in Savannah. Maybe it was the fresh air, the last dregs of the morphine, but as soon as I sat in the car, I got really dizzy. I didn't let on to The Amazon, and we head to Kroger to get my prescription filled. She pulls up to the front, and I tell her that I'll be right back, and she insists on filling the script, but I'm adamant. I will do it. I hop out of the car and head inside. The dizziness is getting a little worse, and now it feels like Rommel's Afrika Corps have marched through my mouth. I get to the Pharmacy, hand them my prescription, I have to fill out a bunch of paperwork, and I guess I started to look a little sickly, because the clerk kept looking from my hospital bracelet to my face, and questioning whether to call security or not. She doesn't, and tells me that it'll be about 10 minutes. I head for the water fountain and take a long drink. Then I take another. Then I go outside and stand outside the car having a cigarette, because The Amazon won't allow anyone to smoke in her car. Of course, she's sitting in the car smoking, but that's ok because she has the window open and I know that the smoke wouldn't dare go inside and face her wrath. I go back inside and the Corps is again on manuvers in my mouth, so I take another long drink, and then get the prescription. It's for some serious painkillers, and I don't really know why I'm getting them, I figure it's "just in case." We head home.

When we get there, The Amazon's sister is waiting for us. They had figured that with me poorly, and with the 97-year old lady that lives with The Amazon since The Amazon's mother died, The Amazon would be overwhelmed. Interestingly, on the 15 minute ride home, the dizzines goes away, and my mouth starts to taste something like normal, or at least like what a night of really, really, heavy drinking tastes like the morning after, which has been "normal" for me on any number of occasions. I head up the 17 steps into her townhouse and grab a Sprite and drink it down and feel even better. I ask if anyone else wants one, and everyone is telling me to sit down and take it easy, and the sister asks if I actually had the operation or not. I'm still starving, so I offer to cook some dinner, and get severely yelled at. Now, I know when not to push it, so I complacently head to the bedroom put on my jammies, and settle onto the couch.

I never told them that I was seriously contemplating going to Blockbuster to get some videos.

The Amazon makes dinner, which in and of itself is a testament to her worry for me. Though she's a wonderful cook, she really hates it, and generally leaves that to me, which, being Italian, it's genetic that I'm an incredible cook. When dinner is almost ready I start setting the table, to the yells and chastisements of the two sisters. I glare at them, but it doesn't help. I'm a beaten man, but I do little things, just to irritate them for the rest of the evening, like getting them a soda when I see that theirs is empty, emptying ashtrays, and the like. It pisses them off, but I'm giggling inside.

Thus were the events of my operation. Overall, St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital gets very high marks from me for their surgical staff, their pre/post-op staff, and the ancillary personnel. With the exception of the recovery room nurse, the staff was all wonderful, capable, and caring, and because I spent the most time with the recovery nurse, her ineptitude rankles me a lot. Dr. Darden, the surgeon was absolutey top-notch, and the work done was, to this day, a month later, pain-free, infection-free, and the scars are fading more each week. At least I HOPE it was Dr. Darden. I never saw him at all in the O.R., and I have to take the staff's word on that.

Oh, about the stones: They gave me two of them and they look for all the world like two molars. They're about the same size too, and are sitting here right in my office in front of me as I write this. I enjoy showing them to people, mainly because they DON'T want to see them, and I love watching their reaction.
 

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