Saturday, August 1, 2009

Under the knife again

Maybe Dr. B1 defused bombs for the Army in Baghdad before he took up head-and-neck surgery.

Because it could not have been easy on Friday in Kaiser's operating room for Dr. B1 to get his delicate instruments past my steel-trap jaws and deep enough into my kisser to capture some of the suspect tissue that lurks there.

If you want the Cliffs Notes version of today's post, here it is: T.G.I.Saturday.

I'd been jittery about how Friday's surgery would go ever since I learned early this month that another biopsy was in my future. While I won't know the results of my biopsy till next week, the procedure went well.

I remember the whole experience with Friday's surgery in stark, high-definition clarity —all the way up to the very beginning, that is.

What I mean is: I remember boarding the Red Line in Universal City shortly after 5 a.m.; I remember getting off the train at Sunset and Vermont; I remember trying to maneuver around a cyclist on the escalator ("I can't move!" he barked, a minute before he and his bike magically regained the miracle of movement at the top of the escalator); I remember walking through the doors of Kaiser's brand-new, $600-million medical center for the very first time; I remember checking in at the admitting department; and I remember asking a pregnant woman to move a sweater so I could take one of the last remaining seats in the waiting area.

I remember getting a plastic band wrapped around my wrist; I remember stuffing my clothes into a plastic bag and donning the standard-issue cap, gown and hospital booties; I remember the nurse unfolding a blanket fresh with warmth from the dryer over my body; I remember her thumping the back of my left hand so she could get a vein for an IV; I remember being interviewed by a steady parade of anesthesiologists and others on my doctor's team; I remember being asked for my name and birth date at least a dozen times.

I remember Dr. B1 stopping by my bed to greet me and review my charts, shaking my hand to say hello and squeezing my toes to say goodbye.

And finally I remember one of the nurses telling me that the medicine that she was feeding into my IV would help me relax. She then brought up the metal rails on my hospital bed and, with help from one of the anesthesiologists, pushed me down a series of winding corridors toward the room where my surgery would take place.

That last scene I've watched a million times on "E.R.," except the irony is, I've never seen a single episode of that show. (If I had mentioned "Ben Casey" instead of "E.R.," some of you might have clicked away to a blog by a younger, hipper cancer victim.)

I remember thinking that the ride in my bed to the operating room was taking too long, but maybe the nurses just push the bed aimlessly around the floor until they know that I am asleep. Because I don't remember entering the operating room. My next conscious memory is opening my eyes in the recovery room, having my vitals taken by the nurse who still thinks I resemble Ben Stiller. Maybe it's a Jew thing; that nurse kinda resembles Julie Kavner.

Dr. B1 says that he won't know the results from the biopsy till Wednesday, so I'm looking at several days of biopsy news hanging over my head.

I have plenty to do to keep me busy in the meantime. Seems like the anesthesia is affecting my ability to pee again, so baby-sitting my bladder and taking Flomax is priority No. 1 (I've used that pun before and I'm not ashamed to use it again).

Darning socks is the next task on my list.

The next time a doctor or anyone else feels like squeezing my toes, I may not be wearing brand-new baby blue hospital booties. I better be prepared.

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