Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fun in Surgery

A kind of funny thing happened yesterday while I was getting my cancer surgery. (I subscribe here to the literary convention of leading with an attention-grabber.) The doctor carving chunks out of my neck and shoulder was a first year resident and her assistant, who was also a sort of oversight doctor, was a third year resident. (I saw him glance at himself in the mirror at one point and brush back his forelock and I said, "I saw that!" which discombobulated him somewhat.  I live to serve.)  Anyway, after my doc was done chopping away a couple of pieces of me which were a lot bigger than I had anticipated they would be, the third year guy left and she was busying herself about the office, cleaning up bloody gauze and the like. She took some plastic bottles and put a piece of my neck into one, then she started looking all around, into this, under that. She then left the office saying she would be right back, and left me lying on this folding table assembly swathed in a rather shabby blue robe that featured an off-the-shoulder style – or at least it did the way I wore it. She left the door open, so I could hear her talking to someone in the distance. And she said words no patient likes to hear, at least not in the tone of voice in which she spoke them:

“You won’t believe what I just did!”

I confess that I awaited her return with rather more interest than I might otherwise have done.

She came back with the three-year guy and a nurse and the three of them proceeded to scour the office. It transpired that she had inadvertently discarded or lost a piece of my shoulder. They looked high and low. My actual tormenter was beside herself.

“Don’t worry,” soothed the young nurse. “Everybody does it sometimes. Why, I,” she confided, rolling up her sleeves and slipping into True Confessions mode, “lost something right in front of Dr. Petrov!” One pictured this Petrov as an old tyrant whose crusty exterior concealed a heart that was pretty darn crusty also, as seen on every TV drama since 1946.

“I better not get home and find it in my pocket,” I said.

The three of them turned the hazardous waste bin upside down and picked through its contents. Affecting my best Brooklyn-mobster accent, I said, “Do ya want a piece of me?”

Then they went through the ordinary wastebasket. The looked under the table on which I lay in semi-deshabille. They went through everything again. They started looking in places that really were not possible candidates for receptacles of my discarded flesh; you know the kind of desperation searching one does when something is nowhere to be found, like maybe you had gone into a fugue state and climbed up and put something atop the refrigerator or above a ceiling tile. I mentioned that this procedure reminded me forcibly of Nurse Jackie, which none of them had seen and of which most had not heard. I was enjoying myself immensely. Eventually, the assistants in my doc’s search gave up and departed with an air that suggested she had best suck it up and admit defeat with, perhaps, a soup├žon of relief that it was not them who lost it – or lost me, as the case may be.

She kept up the search, and I was beginning to wonder if the rest of my life was to be spent lounging, semi-clad, on a narrow table while busy poking and prying went on all about me. Finally, in her third foray into the wastebasket, she discovered the missing bit deep in the finger of a discarded latex glove.

So that was how I spent yesterday, and a lovely day it was, too. Now I am walking around with these humongous bandages here and there about my corpus. Because of the stitches, I was advised not to lift anything heavy or to do any exercise that might raise my blood pressure.

I could not believe my ears. “I never thought I’d hear a doctor advise me not to exercise!” I exclaimed. ”Far out! Could I get that in writing?”

But the doc said if she wrote anything she would definitely include an expiration date for the admonition. Still, I am sitting on my butt doing nothing on doctor’s orders and that suits me down to the ground. Normally, of course, I would be doing exactly the same thing, but it is nice to have this unwonted aura of virtue surrounding me.

And it is only basal cell skin cancer, which is hardly cancer at all.


  1. I cannot believe blogger LOST my whole wonderful comment! Oh, well.
    I'm glad you had such enjoyment at the surgery funhouse. And I get to enjoy a blog from it.. Things just keep on rolling. Any person in medicine remembers those moments of "How did I suddenly get that stupid??" when you do something inexplicable like lose a five foot long patient, or go through the wrong door and end up with things on you that should never BE on you, or many of a million mistakes I can think of that I've done or witnessed! I remember all of them in Technicolor occasionally. Fortunately there are not many, really, and I never harmed anyone, although I have been known to pray rather earnestly a few times. Must have worked. And I was always the one that called and reported my own error! It's hell, sometimes, having ethics and morals..:) Glad you're not exercising, as you should, so you can heal beautifully, and not "pop" any of those stitches and get a rather ugly eschar. Keep up the good work!

  2. jeankfl - Yeah - I never really hold these kinds of mistakes against the folks, so long as they are nice and don't try to make it MY fault. I have seen worse. Once when I was a programmer for a public hospital I saw a memorandum on the Medical Records Supervisors desk. "In re: (name): Where are this patient's eyes?" You can bet I never had the olive loaf in the cafeteria after that! Thank god I am never troubled by ethics or morals, mine, I mean. I do like the other guy to have a passing acquaintance with them...
    Oh, and I DO hold it against blogsites when they lose my insightful comments. I long since learned to write the original blogs in Word, then cut & paste.

  3. Happy healing! I'm glad she found the piece of you she needed and I admire her stick-to-itivity.

  4. Flooz - If she had left it stuck to me, none of this would have happened. I am kind of amazed at how little the gaping wounds hurt, considering the vast quantities of me that were excised. I shall endeavor to heal happily as you command.

  5. Did you leave with some juice, a cookie, and a sticker that said, "I gave blood/a piece of my shoulder today"?

    You might be a better sport than I...(though I've also had a secret fascination with people that have had bypass surgery and have the jagged scar down their chest cavity to show for it).

  6. Flooz - again - how is it possible that when I was just here my last comment was not here and now it is and I made the following one in vain? Well, I healed without incident and will be de-stitched Tuesday. I, too, admired the stick-to-itiveness, although I think that was part of the problem - I think the chunk o' me stuck to the glove and then when it turned inside out as she removed it (the glove, not the chunk) it was left inside the inverted finger. A) yuck! and B) good on her for finding it!

    ColleenQ - I had only a couple of whacking great bandages that practically begged strangers to ask what happened. Even better for one so show-offy as I am. Perhaps I left them on a day longer than entirely necessary for the slow and unobservant. My fascination with he jagged scar depends entirely on whethter or not I think it makes me or them look hotter. If it appears as a dent in a loaf of bread dough, no. And I DON'T want to find which way it goes for me, so I shall avoid said jag if possible - I'd much rather have a drinking jag - or even a crying jag.