Under The Knife – Part 2


By the time we reached the hospital, the parking garage was nearly full. How damn many surgeries do they do at 6:00 in the morning? We ended up getting to the registration desk 15 minutes late.

The presurgical waiting room was dark and kind of musty. There were many antique chairs situated in a maze throughout the room. A large plasma screen TV showed a grid with patient numbers, status, and comments. As we walked up to the desk, we were given a number and told to reference that number in all communications about the patient — me. That number would also be used to track my progress through surgery and into the recovery room.

As we sat down to fill out more paperwork, we walked past a young woman who was sitting in a chair, rocking back and forth, crying, and rubbing the beads on a rosary. That upset my wife and I could see her begin to fidget.

One by one, patient numbers were called, random people and family members stood up, walked to the desk, and then walked out the door into pre-op.

“That’s us,” I said to my wife. She just gave me this long sorrowful look that kind of made me feel sad. We took all of our belongings and followed everyone else down the hall to pre-op.

Once inside, there was another maze of hospital gurneys separated by curtains. We were led to one of the “rooms” in the middle of the maze. Hospital staff scurried about with portable computers, entering data as they walked from room to room. On the bed in my room was a garment bag and a gown. I knew the routine. Everything off. Gown with the opening in the back. Hair net to catch all of my flowing locks.
I took off my sneakers, folded up my sweatsuit, and put everything into the bag. I had to wear a sweatsuit to the surgery, because it made me feel as if I was more “healthy” compared all the other people who needed surgery. Also, I figured that if I wore jeans when I left the hospital, they would press upon the surgical site. See? I was thinking ahead.

I sat myself in the bed and pulled the sheet up over my legs. My wife pulled the chair next to me and held my hand. Then we just sat and waited.

A nurse came in and took a history. She confirmed everything that was in the records from my preoperative physical the week prior. Nope. Nothing changed.
Then a surgical resident came in, performed a brief physical exam, and took another history. Same questions the nurse asked. I knew I would have to repeat the same history at least 2-3 more times. That’s just the way things go.

Then the anesthesiologist came by and sized up my jaw. Held my chin in his hand and turned my head from side to side like he was getting ready to sock me. Had me open my mouth. Made sure that I showed him all of my intact teeth. He just wanted to make sure that there wouldn’t be any problem getting the tube down my throat.

Another nurse came in and started my IV. By then, word had gotten around the pre-op area that I was a doctor. One of the other nurses chickened out on sticking me for the IV. The new nurse’s hand was shaking when she came at me with the needle. I felt bad. What’s the big deal? It’s not like I’m going to yell at you. She aced it on the first stick and taped it into place.

For some reason, about 5 minutes later I got very nauseous. Just came up at me out of the blue.

“You better get me a bucket quick – I’m going to hurl,” I told my wife. I was getting that tight feeling in my jaw and my salivary glands were doing double time.
“Did they put something in the IV?” I asked.
“I don’t think so.”

I looked across the hall. There was another guy sitting in a bed staring at me. For some reason, I got irritated.
“Honey, can you close the drape?”
“Because otherwise I’m going to jump out of this fricking bed and go puke in the lap of that dude eyeballing me across the hall.”
“Just relax. He doesn’t have anything else to do. Look at his wife.”
He was just sitting in the bed. His wife was hunched over her CrackBerry texting away and completely ignoring him. Not sure what was so important at 6:30 AM on the day of her husband’s surgery, but my wife was right. Then I felt bad for getting annoyed.
OK, buddy, enjoy the show.

Another nurse came by, ripped open several alcohol swabs and held them up to my nose. “Sniff these, they’ll help.”
I looked at her as if to say “are you kidding me?”
“Trust me.”
So at that instant, I became a “huffer” of isopropyl alcohol. If the odor didn’t help, I could always suck the alcohol out like I’ve seen some patients do in the past.
Damned if it didn’t work.  The nausea didn’t go away, but it did get better.

Then an anesthesia resident came by and gave me some Zofran. Cool. Nausea pretty much gone. He began to give me a second medication when Mrs. WhiteCoat asked what it was. He held the syringe so she could see it but so that my line of sight was blocked by his hand.

Mrs. WhiteCoat’s eyes began to tear up.

I thought to myself “Why the heck is she get….”



Here are links to the other parts in case you get lost:
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6



  1. I’m guessing that my trip to family med doctor yesterday to have a mole looked at won’t make for quite the same high drama as your surgical story. I will continue to leave the writing to you. 🙂

    • Never heard of Robin Cook, so I Googled him. Interesting that we have the same philosophy in writing – to draw interest to topics and to teach people about the topics at the same time.
      That’s why I’m writing about this little stint. How many people go for surgery and have no idea what it’s like? Maybe they’ll have a little better idea after reading these posts.

      • Miss Chevious on

        I’ve read a lot of Robin Cook’s books and he’s really fascinating–just like you. I think you’d be a great medical fiction writer. Where’s part 3??? 🙂

  2. This is reminding me of how I fell in love with your blog reading about your trial… and how I forced myself to wait until a couple of posts had piled up because I couldn’t stand the suspense each day!

    Great work!

  3. Just so long as WC doesn’t become the next Dr. Oz. There are times I want to reach thrugh the telly and strangle that guy.

    I’m still waiting to hear what’s in the syringe. A nice little pre-op barbituate?

    • Versed it was.
      Obviously didn’t know about until after the surgery. Mrs. WhiteCoat said that was the point where she realized that there wasn’t any going back.

      • My heart goes out to Mrs. Whitecoat. Experiences like this are much harder on those who are waiting than those who are having the work done! The waiting must be even harder on a medical professional who knows all too well the real risks.

  4. Great writing!

    You know ..I am glad I am just getting in here …because it’s like coming into a book series late …you get to go right from one to the next until done. Although then withdrawal from being in the momentum of the stories.

    I feel for your wife too.

    I think it is hard on everyone for different reasons.

    Versed. I hate not knowing what I say or do… being to breezy with my thoughts verbalized …is my fear. least of it though.

    Funny about giving the guy a show. 🙂

    You never know what their marriage is like. But, sad she thought it was more important. O-r-r …YOU were just that GREAT of a show! 😉

  5. Yikes, that seems quite scary to me, being put under anesthesia without them warning you? I’d like to know when they’re starting… Is that even allowed? Here in the Netherlands we’re supposed to announce/explain everything we do – unless the patient is really in a delirium or something like that.

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