The Story of the Surgery (part 4)

March 1, 2009

I arrived at Roosevelt Hospital before ambulatory surgery had opened and had to wait around about 15 minutes before heading up. As the waiting room filled up, I noticed how miserable everyone looked. Like they were walking (and in many cases limping) to their deaths. I realized how completely alone I felt, more alone than I had felt traveling through India on my own. There was no one to feel what I felt at that particular moment in that dilapidated hospital with the worn furniture and stained ceiling tiles. No hands to hold or arms to take shelter in. I found myself missing my family in a way I hadn't in years. Missing the security of people that would see me through my crises and ordeals. But in this I was on my own.

After signing numerous dubious consent forms ensuring I wouldn't sue, I put my clothes and belongings in a narrow locker and changed into a loose-fitting paper gown and thin cocoa-brown ankle socks with rubber adhesive underneath. I padded my way through the hallway looking at concerned families crowded around their sick relatives in curtained rooms or patients stranded on gurneys in the middle of hallways. Soon I found myself stranded as well, staring up at the disintegrating ceiling across from an obese black woman looking sad and lonely. I began to tense up feeling as if I were in the movie Jacob's Ladder, having a hallucination of someplace that I absolutely should not be. My panic settled as a beautiful Indian anesthesiologist took my hand softly and introduced herself. She had an enormous diamond on her finger and I thought that she had an extremely lucky husband. Though self-conscious in my plastic robe and convalescing state, we talked about India which made me feel better and gave me solace that even if I die in this horrible horrible place, one of the last images I will have looked on is an absolutely beautiful woman. They laid me out Christ-like on the operating table remarking how I wouldn't even remember this part of the surgery. I did, even if I didn't remember the actual fading into a gentle sleep.

I came to in a reclining chair with a blanket. Cold. Very cold. They turned on a heat lamp leaving me basking in its glow and brought me some milky tea in a styrofoam cup and graham crackers. I couldn't remember the last time I had graham crackers and had the sense of being a child again. I dozed off and woke up to Jesse working on his laptop beside me. I felt immediately self-conscious at my pitiful state, unable to converse or move properly. Jesse remarked in my bearded state that I looked rather like Van Gough and we waited for the drugs to subside as he snapped occasional pictures of me, documenting the experience. We took a cab the long way home which seemed to hit every pothole in New York. My head was spinning, hurting, jostling, vibrating. I felt like whatever they had put in my head had surely rattled out by the time I got home. I felt nauseous and my head was throbbing. I laid down to bed as Jesse ran out to fill my prescription. Once the medicine kicked in I thanked Jesse profusely and fell into a deep sleep.