I wrote this months ago, but never published it because I didn’t have any good photos to go with it, and kept thinking I’d redraw my sad little sketch in Illustrator or something. But I never will, and blogs with new content to read on the weekends is rare, so here you go. Enjoy my humiliation, it’s what I do.
Adding the ‘read more’ link just in case I decide to set this post on fire later.
I was waiting around for something to happen. It was my surgery day and I was all dressed up in full length compression leggings, a thin gown, and one of those lovely hair-hiding paper shower caps. I’d been wheeled into a freezing cold hallway and left up against a wall next to a fire alarm. I’d seen a string of nurses and student doctors and answered the same questions over and over. Finally, the anesthesiologist paid me a visit. He seemed nice enough with reassuring white hair tufting out from under his surgery cap, and I hoped I’d be falling asleep sooner rather than later. He went through the same questions I’d heard ten times already and wrapped up with asking (again) if I’d ever had a bad reaction to anesthesia.
I said I hadn’t (again), but explained that I tended to wake up badly – sometimes in the middle of the operation, flailing about, pulling out my IV and sending blood spattering everywhere. I have hazy memories of getting heavy weights placed over me and velcro straps on my arms before I went back under. I laughed, because isn’t that funny? But he didn’t seem to think so, he raised his eyebrows and assured me he wouldn’t let that happen, probably muttering that this is why they ask questions over and over, because it finally breaks the patient and they fess up. I really just hadn’t thought waking up badly was a very bad reaction.
He must have upped my dose somewhat, as I didn’t wake up while they were up in my business with sharp objects, so that was nice. However, when I did come to in the recovery room, I was full on Crazeballs.
I’m pretty sure that is a real, diagnosable condition.
After both my jaw surgeries, I was informed that I used my hands to sign M-O-M over and over (I only know the ASL alphabet, and not well… I can never remember the sign for P or Q). I vaguely remember signing M-O-M and H-O-M-E after my second jaw surgery and pissing off my then-significant other who wondered why I wasn’t signing his name in my drugged up state. Shouldn’t my besotted subconscious be longing for his care and tenderness? (Spoiler: no. He was for-real-Crazeballs.)
I don’t know why this barely-known, never used sign language alphabet jumps to the forefront of my barely-subconscious thoughts post-anesthesia, but apparently, that is the way I roll. The first thing I remember about waking up last month is the nurse repeatedly pushing my arms down and telling me in a “I’ve had enough of this, lady” voice that I just had to knock it off. I uncharacteristically refused to cooperate, however, because I had a SUPER IMPORTANT MESSAGE that had to be be communicated, so I continued to thrust my (abnormally long) arms straight into the air over my bed to sign broken bits of the ASL alphabet with fierce determination and complete disregard for recovery room rules.
The room around me was all fuzzy and dream like and I was slapping my chest primate-style, periodically shaking the bedrails like the world’s most obnoxious patient in all history of time, ever – all to get the nurse’s attention. And for what? To sign my husband’s name desperately in her face and point wildly around. She pushed my arms down again and again, and with strained patience said, “Look, I thought you were deaf. I had to call in a translator, but all you’re signing is your husband’s name. I know it. It’s right here on the chart. I’ve underlined it a few times if that makes you feel better.” Somehow this punched through my foggy cloud a bit more and I came to understand that it wasn’t completely necessary to wave my arms about like a frenzied Helen Keller.
Not signing M-O-M, but my husband’s name over and over… and over. I suppose that’s pretty sweet – my subconscious is good and truly besotted this time, that’s good to know.
I had enough presence of mind to stop making my spouse’s name a matter of utmost urgency and instead cast my eyes about in an attempt to clear the fog from my vision. I soon noticed a doctor in surgery scrubs and cap striding over to our corner of recovery. A patient had just been wheeled up next to me, and he stood at the bottom of the gurney to check her over. She was coming to with delicate little moaning noises and kept her arms fully by her sides like a proper patient. Someone said the doctor’s name – we’ll call him Dr. L – and this caught the wispy dreams of my drugged attention with the force of a runaway truck.
I realized I knew Dr. L. He wasn’t my doctor, but I knew him. The urgency returned ten-fold, only this time it was to connect with this man whom I barely knew in reality, and who was probably very busy with various people to cut into and stitch up. I started smacking my bedrails again and flailing about, straining out of my hospital blankets, trying to sit up, gesturing wildly in his direction.
Okay. Dear blog readers. We need to stop right here. I… never, ever behave this way when I’m in full control of all my braincells. Even if I saw someone I actually knew in, say, the grocery store, I’d likely be paralyzed with anxiety (what to say? what to say?!) and busy myself with the nectarines until she either passed me or initiated a hello herself.
SO. The fact that I was now hailing some doctor I barely knew to… do what? is almost unfathomable. I wish I could show you in person how I was banging, waving, and choking incoherently. It’s horrible, it’s what my nightmares are made of. When I tell this story in person, people are crying with laughter at this point, and I don’t think I can communicate the full effect of my thrashing, uncoordinated limbs stripped of all inhibition well enough via the written word, so let’s just go back to the story.
Dr. L notices me (how can he not, I’m acting completely mental) and heads over to my bedside, shooting the nurse a curious look. I’m sure she was like, “OH, YOU HAVE NO IDEA” with her eyes, but I was too intent on talking to Dr. L. I started signing again, right up in front of his bemused face and he quirked another look at the nurse who explained that I wouldn’t stop. I patted my hoarse throat (I’d been scoped) and croaked out with much gesturing and arm waving a bunch of incoherent nonsense. He nodded like he knew exactly what I meant. I continued, adding more bedrail shaking and stomach patting and chest pounding. Miraculously, some level of true understanding broke over his face (I think I croaked out my maiden name) and he said, “Yes, I know your grandfather well,” and he turned to go. I banged some more and flung my arms wide, “No… also. School… with… kids….” and stopped to pat my head mysteriously as for some inexplicable reason I couldn’t come up with his kids’ names. Funny, since I barely knew them in high school. He nodded, and this gave me even more encouragement. “Yes… you. my… gack, gack, croak.” He smiled and patted my arm, and I was fully satisfied. I nodded — more of an enthusiastic head bopping — and released my prisoner.
You guys. I didn’t really know him, I’ve never even properly met the man. I knew of him. His family lived in my school zone and I went to school with his kids. His daughter was a year older than me and was my arch nemesis over one very dorky boy. His son and I were in drama together, and despite the boy issue, none of us knew each other all that well, and I hope to high heaven neither one of them remember me now. My grandfather was, actually, his Stake President for several years, and I’m fairly sure he did my mother’s hysterectomy a bajillion years ago, though even if he could make the connection, I’m sure it didn’t top his list of important things to do that day. Good gravy, I hope he forgot the entire exchange and chalked it up to serious, serious drug problems.
Satisfied that I’d finally found someone to satisfy my extreme and immediate need for pointless conversation after major surgery, I settled down to behave like a sane patient. The haze over my brain continued to clear, and not too long after the doctor left, I turned to the nurse and whispered, “I… I think I handled that badly.” She clucked some soothing words — probably just glad I wasn’t signing all up in her grill any longer — and spooned me some ice chips. As I continued to wake up, the realization of how I’d acted and what I’d done sunk in. I was mortified.
My family heard this story as soon as I could speak properly — I thought my grandpa (the one who knows Dr. L) was going to have a stroke, he was laughing so hard — but I continued to suffer every time I replayed the wispy events in my head. It especially haunted me at night, and I’d bury my head in the pillow and whisper, “Oh my word” over and over while I felt the burn creep up my face to singe my ears off. I tried to convince myself that patients waking up badly can’t be an altogether uncommon occurrence but I’m pretty sure I’ve become a story for the nurses (and doctor) to tell around the water cooler. At least I didn’t strip and run around in nothing but compression hose?
I have a plethora of embarrassing moments, but this is definitely one of the top 10. What is your most humiliating experience?