On the Monday before Thanksgiving, I broke my wrist. The next day, following the advice of Rose Medical Center, I scheduled a follow-up appointment with a hand surgeon to get the stupid thing put in a cast or something. The options were pretty vague to me, since the hospital gave me a prescription for Vicodin along with a few sample pills to get me started.
Ethan drove me to the doctor’s office and offered to come in with me when I got called back. I waved him off, which was really stupid in retrospect. I’d decided just before getting in the car that one Vicodin wasn’t enough, so I took two. I was now higher than most layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and thinking that the uncomfortable-looking table would make a great place to take a nap.
The doctor came in and frowned over my x-rays. He explained what was going on there. I nodded and made note of the pretty colors.
“We’ve got three options,” he said. “We can either leave it in that splint and see if it heals up on its own, we can put it in a cast, or we can do some surgery. You’ll regain more use of your hand right after the surgery.”
“I like option # 3 the best,” I said to him, or at least, to one of him. He left and got his assistant to schedule me for surgery.
On Sunday, the Vicodin wore off and I panicked over what I’d agreed to. I was convinced that I would be among the incredibly minuscule minority of patients to die on the operating table, and since I don’t believe in an afterlife or anything like it, I was not okay with that.
Naturally, I didn’t sleep so great the night before the surgery. Of course, that could also have had something to do with not taking Vicodin at all, knowing I would need to get up at 4:30 for my insanely early surgery.
Ethan somehow managed to direct the car to the surgery center without hitting any old ladies in wheelchairs, and I got directed to the back, where I got to answer all kinds of completely non-privacy invasive questions such as, “What medications are you on?” (one of ’em: birth control) and, “When was the date of your last menstruation?” (the answer: “Just finished it.”).
The nurse said, “We need to give you a pregnancy test.”
So in addition to the upcoming pokes, proddings, and possible death, I would also need to pee in a cup one-handed. Excellent.
They got me set up in a bed and brought Ethan back to keep me company and receive some post-op care instructions. I don’t know what would have happened if he’d decided he couldn’t handle the stress. I can only assume I would’ve needed to dig up a responsible adult on Craigslist.
He got himself settled in. “Guess what,” I asked proudly.
“I’m not pregnant!”
He nodded. “Too bad. That would’ve been a hell of a lawsuit against the birth control company.”
Soon the anesthesiologist came in. He was a confident, friendly man with a great bedside manner, and my fears of death by intravenous injection were quickly assuaged. I didn’t start to worry again until the surgeon came in, had me sign a consent form, and then took out a pen and held it against my bad arm.
As my cousins and I discussed later, it was both uninspiring and reassuring at the same time. Sure, he had all the paperwork and the splint to prove that it was my right wrist in need of a metal plate, but hey, screw-ups happen. It was probably just as well he made a note of the correct arm, especially if he’s still at the same stage I am of needing to make an L with his thumbs and forefingers to identify sides correctly.
They wheeled me into the OR. I squinted at the anesthesiologist.
“Did you already put some knockout drugs in my IV?”
“I sure did,” he said.
“That would explain why the ceiling’s moving,” I said.
Suddenly, I was in another room. “What else do they have to do?” I asked the nurse, alarmed.
“Nothing. You’re done,” she said brightly.
“I didn’t even get to count back from 100!” I marveled.
Ethan took me home, where I spent the rest of the day sleeping. I told my dad about my experience, or lack thereof, on the operating table the next night.
“They think patients under general anesthesia can be used as models for what death is like,” he said. “If there is something going on there, there sure aren’t any brain waves registering.”
“Well, I can tell you there wasn’t anything going on up there yesterday,” I responded. Both he and Ethan resisted the urge to make jokes about this usually being the case.
So if that was my first taste of death, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, either. It just…wasn’t.
In the meantime, I can type two-handed again, albeit slowly and somewhat painstakingly with the thick bandage wrapped around my wrist. That should come off on Monday. Since I can’t get my ski glove or parka sleeve on over the cast, I’ve been unable to indulge in my favorite hobby of skiing, and my ass is not-so-slowly growing in size, hastening that hopefully distant day when I get to taste death for real.
Have a bright and happy weekend, everyone!