My Tuesday CT scan went smoothly (I get the results this coming Tuesday) and my Wednesday visit with the Wound and Ostomy Nurse gave me lots of new information to process. All good!
On Friday morning, I was scheduled to get my nephrostomy tube removed. Woo hoo! In the pre-appointment phone call, they told me this: The doctor will inject dye into the tube and make sure that everything is flowing smoothly. If it is, they will remove the tube, and no sedation needed. If not, they will make a decision of what to do, and it may involve sedation.
The uncertainty on the medical front can be a little crazy-making. The logistical side also weighs on me, as I don’t like to inconvenience people, but I cannot drive myself home from these appointments. This requires me to ask a friend to keep the whole day free to pick me up at “whatever” time and in whatever drugged shape I am in, and to find folks to manage childcare, school pick-ups, etc. To top it off, my husband was out of town.
But friends were flexible and generous, we solved the logistics, and I was eager to finish up the week of appointments. On Friday morning, the Uber arrived promptly and I got into the car, looking forward to some quiet time to settle in before my procedure.
“Hi, are you Marie?” the driver asked in his unmistakable Minnesota accent. Knowing that the typical Midwesterner is chatty, I settled in for a conversational drive. My quiet time would have to wait.
We arrived at the hospital on time (despite traffic, construction zones and rain – very impressive) and I checked in. They asked me to have a seat until they called me, so I did.
Next, two women walked in together. One was dressed like any customer you might see at Starbucks. The other was dressed in what I think of as hospital clothes: Ugly clothes that you can easily wash in scalding water or might even choose to burn. She was quite thin (like me!) and her clothes hung on her like a hanger. I’m guessing that she was the patient.
“Hi,” she cheerfully greeted the person at the check-in desk. “I’m Deborah. D-E-B-O-R-A-H.”
She chatted like I do when I am nervous, about the pencils and her students. Once she was checked in, they called for me and someone led the three of us (Deborah, her friend, and me) downstairs to the room where they prep us patients. I still wanted to have some quiet time, so I walked behind the others. We checked into pre-op, then sat together.
I noticed that Deborah was wearing a nephrostomy bag. As much as I thought I needed quiet, I was compelled to ask her about it. She lamented that no one could tell her how to live with this, and I could relate. (They only told each of us, “You’ll figure it out.”) We shared our few personal tips and tricks for wearing the bags and handling the tubes, how to sleep (which is, not), etc. She told me that, at one point, she had two of them, and she hated them. I could relate to that too. I didn’t tell her that I hoped to get my tube removed that day. We joked about having so few body parts left inside our abdomens.
Soon they brought us each to our own little curtained area so we could be prepped for our procedures, and I wished we could chat a bit longer.
The nurse anesthetist walked into my curtained area, and we immediately recognized each other from my prior procedures. She was also chatty. Clearly, I was not going to get my quiet time yet, so I put my own agenda aside and conversed.
She described what would happen in the procedure room and – I love this part – NO ONE PUT AN IV IN ME. No one. I was prepared for them to say, “Just in case we need this” but no one did. I was thrilled.
Soon they wheeled me out of my area, past all the other patients. Everyone looks so sick in this context so I try not to look at them, but I suddenly saw Deborah, and we gleefully yelled out “Hi!”
The nurse wheeled me to the procedure room, where I transferred my body face-down to another table that had an x-ray machine hovering over it. The nurse kept talking and talking, now about another patient who loved to do food-related travel and was soon going to Greece with a famous local chef. She also talked about his love of wine and how he promised her a bottle of something really special. It occurred to me that while she may not be administering anesthesia for this procedure, she was effectively distracting me. She does her job well.
She transitioned to telling me that my doctor does a wine-tasting fundraiser every September to benefit the Boy Scouts. I was intrigued. His son was in Scouts, she explained, and he fully supports his son in everything he does. Then she mentioned that he also sells handmade lanyards to raise money for autism, and I was again intrigued. I briefly shared our family story with her and the doctor appeared.
He introduced himself, then immediately turned his focus to directing the Fellow, who was doing the hands-on work. The procedure moved quickly. I loved that the doctor said all good things during the procedure, like “this looks good” and “it’s a smooth flow.” I don’t think he said them for my psychological benefit, but I was still grateful.
The Fellow injected dye, watched it on the x-ray machine, removed the stitches and the tube, and bandaged me up as the Attending Doctor guided him through it.
As they wrapped up their work, the doctor said to me, “All done. Now you never have to see me again.”
“The first time I saw you, you made me cry. Gulping, devastated sobs.”
“You were furious with me.”
I laughed. “I was. I hated you.”
The nurse interrupted us. She shared that she told me about his fundraisers, and I shared that we had a few things in common. He started to tell me all kinds of stories about his son and daughter. He was obviously proud of them both and had a good sense of humor about their personalities. I loved listening to him animatedly share the details.
When he left the room, the nurse said, “I have NEVER seen him talk so long, much less to a patient. That was something.”
During college, I had a job as a bank teller. One of my favorite moments of the day was taking a super grumpy customer and shifting their mood before they walked away from my counter and into the rest of their day.
In that moment, I had that same feeling. Though I suspect that this time, I was both the teller and the customer.
As they wheeled me back to the pre- and post-op room, we passed Deborah, getting wheeled to her procedure. The nurses stopped so that we could connect one more time.
Maybe I wasn’t supposed to have a quiet morning. Apparently, it wasn’t what I needed.
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need
I hope you find that you get what you need, as well as what you want!
Blessings and love,