One year ago this month I had an “elective” surgery performed to have my gallbladder removed. I air quote “elective” because there is nothing “elective” about a doctor telling you that this has to come out or you could die, not mention I am going to be fileted like a fish. This ain’t McDonalds mother----er!!! I am Sean.
I set the day for Martin Luther King Day because I know Syd will be with her mom that weekend and she will be out of school that day. The doctors told us that I would check in on Monday, they would do the surgery that afternoon, that I would check out of the hospital that evening and by Tuesday morning I’ll be able to go back to work. This sounded good to me because I didn’t want Syd to see me in the hospital with gallbladder issues again and worry about me plus I can get back home and relax and I won’t have to drive until Tuesday morning.
I take that following Monday off from work and over the weekend I mentally prepare for the surgery. I am praying up a storm because I don’t want to die. I want to be here for Andrea and Syd. I know its minor surgery but you can’t tell me that. This surgery is making me do something I don’t like to do. I am giving up control to complete strangers. Someone is about to mess with my insides. What if they cut the wrong part? What if they give me too much anesthesia? Oh shit, what if they don’t give me enough and I feel them inside my guts? Wait!!!! What if I am like that dude in the movie “Awake” and can see, feel and hear everything??? AW HELL NAW. I change my mind and Andrea looks at me, “Really Sean?”
On Monday Andrea and my dad take me to the hospital. I check in or I should say I feel like I am being walked to a prison death chamber. In my mind I hear “DEAD MAN WALKING” as they put me in a room and hand me the gown I need to wear for the surgery. There is something surreal about undressing and willingly getting in a bed knowing total strangers are going to see you nekkid and start stabbing you with various instruments (yeah that’s how my mind works). The nurse comes in, checks my vitals and says, “Your family can come back after the anesthesiologist talks with you. This surgery thing is an unknown for me. I don’t like unknowns. I need assurances that no one is going to kill me. I need to see my family. I am damn near in tears from fear. The anesthesiologist comes in. He is a pleasant fellow and explains what he has to do. He asks, “Have you had anything to drink or eat since midnight last night?” “Nope, I read what happens if you eat or drink and you “aspirate”. I am not going to be a party to my own death. I “aspire” to live.” He laughs, says, “Do you have any concerns or questions?”
I look at him and the weak smile leaves my face. I fall back into worry and my voice cracks. “I am so nervous. I can’t stop thinking about the what ifs. To be honest I am scared.” “Don’t worry. We will take care of you. This is a minor surgery.” “To you it’s minor. To me this is my life.” He can see that I am nearly having a panic attack so he says, “I’ll give you a sedative to calm your nerves and get your family back here right now.” He injects something in my IV, writes on the chart and I start feeling less panicky. He leaves and a few minutes later Andrea and Dad come in. I’m feeling buzzed and start thinking, “So this is what Prozac is for.” They talk to me and try to keep me calm but I’m pretty cool now thanks to the drugs.
As we are talking a gang of hospital personnel come in the room and tell us it’s time. They begin to roll me out of the pre-op room toward the gas chamber and this is where shit gets fuzzy. I remember getting really scared but at the same time getting really sleepy. I don’t know if they turned on the go to sleep juice or what but the next memory I recall is seeing Andrea beside me as they push me out of the room and then she’s gone. I hear someone say something about putting compression things on my legs and then I doze again. I then hear “lift” or I think I hear lift and BAM I am out.
Like in the movies I slowly open my eyes and everything is fuzzy. I don’t know where I am or what is going on but I know that I’m thirsty and I’m hungry. I remember seeing this Asian lady and thinking, “Why is Ms. Kim in my face?” I opened my mouth to say, “Ms. Kim, I would like fried rice with chicken, eggs and a sweet tea” when my brain suddenly kick starts and I realize the Asian lady in my face was not Ms. Kim but one of the nurses checking on me. That would have been SOO embarrassing. “Mr. Thomas, how do you feel?” I whisper, “I’m thirsty.” The next thing I remember is Andrea and Dad coming in the room, hearing something about not giving me anything to drink and me asking Andrea to rub an ice chip on my mouth. I remember thinking this must be what waterboarding is as she rubbed the ice chip on my lips. After that I don’t remember anything until getting in the SUV and going home. Andrea and Dad put me on the couch and that’s all I remember until the next time I woke up, roughly 12-13 hours later.
It took a little over a week (not a day as they said) to return to work and return to being me but there was one thing I kept hearing from people who had their gallbladder removed and that was my bathroom breaks are going to increase exponentially. They were right. I wound up spending so much time in the bathroom I thought about setting up a table for my laptop. Whatever I ate left within the hour. If I drank a glass of water it triggered a sit down. If I sneezed I had to run to the facilities. Every little thing prompted a bathroom break. It eventually calmed down and I developed a new bathroom pattern but shit that was rough on my ass.
I don’t know how people discuss their “elective” surgery with family and friends as if it is no big deal when to me it was a very big deal. Maybe I over reacted but let’s keep it real, someone cut me open and removed a piece of my innards ostensibly to save my life. Do I feel better? Yes but in the same breath I can tell you that the reason I put off the surgery was because of my fear of not waking up. I convinced myself that I didn’t need the surgery; that I could control the pain and I did that for three years until one day I couldn’t. That takes……some gall.