Second Surgery (part 1)

March 3, 2009

A terrible snowstorm arrived the night before the second surgery covering the streets in a foot of snow and blowing angry winds throughout the city. The weather closed New York City Schools for the first time in five years as people struggled with commuting and removing snow from entryways. Despite that, Northside car service got me to the hospital perfectly on time and there seemed to be no delays for my surgery as I feared. In fact, the hospital looked a little less scary, a little less colorless than last I remembered. They even had new purple paper gowns ("Bair Paws" -- why "Bair"?) with little pockets in front for hands and a plastic connector that could be hooked up to a heating apparatus to blow warm air up the skirt.

I've never felt as human and vulnerable as walking around that hospital in nothing but a thin paper dressing. It was hard not to look in on other people to gauge how they were feeling, listen to their conversations, wonder what was going on with them. I could overhear a young man in the curtained room next to me describing open sores on his chest, the various medications he took daily -- none of which I recognized, how he only drank alcohol once every two weeks. Does he have AIDS? Why so much medication? What procedure is he having done? He seems familiar with all of this, talking so casually to the nurse, sounding so comfortable compared to my stumbling, my questioning, my obsessive need to know why they were asking me these things.

I climbed back into my familiar position on the gurney, luckily facing a corner so I didn't have to look at the familiar faces undergoing procedures probably much more severe than mine. The anesthesiologist introduced herself, a blond Russian woman with make-up looking a bit like Bridgette Nielsen from that vantage point. She was intrigued that I worked at Google asking if any Russians worked there.

"I think they tend to take the best and brightest from all countries."

"Oh, thank you very much. You didn't have to say that."

I didn't actually mean it as a compliment to the Russians specifically, but it doesn't hurt to get in good with your anesthesiologist.

"Don't worry, I give you good drugs. Make you feel good."

At the last minute they opted for the general anesthesia, over the twilight, without much explanation, despite my pressing. I passed through the familiar sensation of winding down and waking up heavy and unexpectedly in my curtained room. This time was different though. I felt sickeningly dizzy if I shifted my head the slightest bit. I couldn't do anything but close my eyes hoping this would go away. I found all sort of hallucinogenic thoughts intruding in on one another, strange collapsing disturbing dreams that I couldn't make go away. I was partly fascinated by what a sick bastard I was that I was capable of creating such detailed, disturbing images gnawing away at one another. The nurses kept prepping me to leave but I was unable to stand. I told them I felt nauseous. They handed me a little plastic container and I vomited. Then another one and I vomited again. Then another and a little later I vomited again. Sarah, who was picking me up, walked up her usual smiling self and I quickly banished her, hoping she wouldn't see me holding a bowl of my own throw-up. The nurses seemed confused as to why I was so dizzy and I had the panicked thought that maybe this was my new permanent state. That I would be a dizzy, retching mess after this.

I told Sarah she should go back to work as I would likely be there for a couple more hours. But almost immediately after I sent her back I began to feel better. The dizziness subsided slowly, but Sarah had a 2:00 meeting she couldn't miss. A nurse was nice enough to retrieve my cell phone from a locker and I preoccupied myself recuperating nicely until she returned. By the time she arrived I had even dressed myself. I called Northside to send their $45 luxury SUV so I didn't repeat my mistake of the rattling cab ride home and made it back in much better shape than last time. Although I still had the ringing in my ear and the slight rushing, it felt diminished and I didn't have the strange sense of hearing in mono. The ear seems like it's back to the level from before the first surgery, though it's too early to tell. I can't imagine having to go through this ordeal a third time, though it's a very likely possibility.