Oh, joy. It’s a dark Tuesday. When I say “dark,” I mean the sun hasn’t risen yet. It’s five-thirty in the morning as my wife and I sit outside the hospital’s admissions office, waiting to start the signing in process. I hold her hand as we make small talk about where the waiting room, the restroom, and the nearest snack dispensers are located.
The door opens up, the two halves folding back along themselves like the two wings of a predator. A woman wearing the clean-cut, dark blue of a business executive steps out and asks us to come in. We follow her into the office and she directs us down a line of cubicles to the last one on the right. Another woman greets us; all sweet and professional like, and begins asking questions about the usual things: my identity, who my next of kin is, my address, my insurance company, and so on. I sign a book-load of papers. She asks me if I have a Living Will. I don’t, but I take the information anyway. Good reading material for later.
By now, the Admissions lady knows I’m a hospital employee. She reminds me that the Gold elevator is out of service and to proceed down the hallway to the next set, which will lift us to the second floor—the surgical suites.
The elevator doors open and we step out.
“Over here, sir,” I hear a voice calling.
I turn to the right and see a nurse wearing the light green of surgical scrubs.
I tell her.
“Oh, yes.” She consults a list. She looks up and smiles. “Follow me, please.”
Why is she smiling? Is it because what’s going to be done to me she knows about? I shuffle behind her as she leads me to a bed on wheels. I decide she’s smiling because she wants me to feel safe and cared for.
“Here you are, sir.” She pulls a thin curtain along on its overhead rail. “This will give you a little privacy while you undress.” She smiles again. “You will need to remove all clothing articles, including jewelry, and slip into this hospital gown. Put these socks on your feet and the hairnet over your head. I’ll be back in a bit.” She’s gone.
I hand Carle (my loving wife) my wallet and start to change. The noise level increases from the other side of the curtain. In a few minutes, I’m in total hospital garb.
I smile at Carle. “What do you think?”
“Not exactly a fashion statement, hon.”
No, its not. I’m wearing the ubiquitous lightweight hospital gown with no backside and a hairnet over what curls I have left. Covering my feet are irritating ankle-high socks that have plastic treads melted into their bottom side. Padding around beside the wheelie-bed leaves a strange feeling on my soles. I sit down on the bed and swing my legs around. The entire experience feels drafty.
Nurse returns and gives me a swift appraisal. “You’ll have to leave your wedding ring with your wife, sir.”
“Oh. Okay.” I twist it loose and slide the golden band over a knuckle. From here, Carle pulls it off, which is only fitting. I mean, she put it there, thirty-plus something years ago, and only she can remove it. It’s a symbolic thing. One I like.
“Mrs. New,” says Nurse, “I afraid you’ll have to leave now. We have to get him ready.”
Not being one for public displays of affection, Carle gives me a quick kiss and waves good-bye.
“How are you feeling, Mr. New?” Nurse asks.
“Oh, concerned, I guess.”
Nurse smiles. “Well, that’s normal. But you’re in the best of hands. Do you understand what’s going to be done today?”
“Yes. Something called a ‘TURBT’.”
“Do you know what that stands for?”
“Um, something about a Trans-Urethral-Resection-of-Bladder-for-Tumor?”
Nurse smiles. “Very good, Mr. New. Do you know what that means?”
“They’re going to go up my urethra, the tube inside my penis, to cut loose and remove a tumor from inside my bladder.” Oww!
“And how do you feel about that, sir?”
Nurse smiles again. “Now, I need to get an IV started and some other things going before the surgeon comes by to meet you.”
Hmm. I’m about to be cut on and I have yet to meet the person that will do it. Interesting.
“You’re going to feel a little pinch, Mr. New.” Yeah, that’s what they always say. I watch as she slides an eighteen-gauge needle into the back of my hand. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt as I expected. Blood puddles at the hub. Quickly, with one hand, she pulls out the metal, needle part, and with her other hand, she slides the plastic catheter up into my vein. She fills two test tubes with my blood, a red topped one and a purple topped one, which the Blood Bank will use to do an emergency cross match if something goes wrong. Nothing should, you understand, but I might need a transfusion to replace blood lost during the procedure. Nurse then hooks up the IV line and tapes everything down.
Numerous people wearing surgical scrubs drop by to introduce themselves. One guy says he’s the nurse anesthetist. He’ll be the person watching over my breathing during the procedure. He introduces another anesthetist (this one’s in training—this is a teaching hospital, after all). I try not to think about who will actually be controlling my breathing. Another person says she will be placing a set of lower-leg pressure cuffs on me. Yet another person positions a cabinet-on-wheels next to the bedside to get an EKG reading. Oh yes, I remember this. Years ago, I used to do this to patients. With rapid and sure motions, she places adhesive backed patches across my chest, arching around my left side, hooks up wires from a harness, and turns on the machine. In less than a minute, she halts the machine, rips off the paper tracing and hands it to another person I do not recognize. He nods at the EKG tech and she disconnects me from the machine. The adhesive patches stay glued to my skin.
“Mr. New,” says the guy holding the EKG tracing. “Good morning, I’m your Surgeon. Everything is looking good, so it won’t be much longer. Got any questions?”
Questions? Everything’s happening with the well-oiled precision of a well-running machine. “Umm, nothing I can think of ….” Actually, I usually think better after something has happened. I’m not one of those spur-of-the-moment fellows.
“Good. See you in a few.” Surgeon disappears.
Within minutes, Nurse surfaces and moves behind my head.
“Ready for a little ride?”
She pulls back the curtain and unlocks the wheel brakes. Out in the Restricted-Space hallway, she pushes my bed over to the wall, slaps her hand against a powered door switch, and wheels me past two double doors. She makes a hard, right-hand turn and I pass through a doorway with the sign “Cystoscope Suite” above it.
Lovely. I’m on the other side of the wall I’ve been laying next to for the past hour. It’s an average sized room, about ten by ten feet. Maybe a bit larger. The bed stops next to the surgical table and about three nurses assist me over. As soon as I lay down fully, somebody behind my head squirts happy juice into my IV and I go nite-nite.
Must have been the anesthetist. Or his student.
Final results: Snoozing.