My original plan was to post a blog entry every day of the recovery, but considering on this Monday I was so high on morphine I didn’t know my right hand from my left; I had zero recollection after the nurses told me they would hold my hand until I went under the anesthesia; as you might imagine I really wasn’t in the best shape to write, let alone sit up or even wear my glasses. As badly as I desired the entertainments of washed up reality television stars, I was not well enough to tolerate the intense flickers of the TV screen–something one may not realize until having just had surgery that morning. So, since I was not well to recount to you of my adventures back then…I’ll just try and remember some of it four years later.
It was the morning of my surgery, and on the way out of the house, Abuela made the Sign of the Cross on my whole body, and I remembered, in flashes, our Sunday mornings at church.
In the car, “Love Shack” by the B-52’s came on the radio, and the melody was stuck in my head on the way to the hospital. When I checked in, a security guard heard me singing under my breath, and he began to sing right along with me.
I couldn’t help but keep to my run with singing “Love Shack”. The room, and the hospital itself, was so somber and depressing. I think I actually counted the number of people clutching a damp tissue to their cheeks.
By the time I changed into my gown, the lyrics from “Love Shack” split from my lips every two minutes. I tried to distract myself by asking my surgeon if he thought I could pull off being a patient on Grey’s Anatomy. He laughed, probably just to humor me. (But it’d be so organic. No props or anything!)
When they called my name, I noted my mother’s teary eyes and gave her a hug. With a deep, deep breath, I held onto a nurse’s hand–her name was Prima–and walked into the operating room for the fourth time.
The operating room itself wasn’t big and glamorous, or dark and dramatic like we see so often on television. It was extremely bright, plain and sterile. There was no gallery. There were just doctors and nurses, and big lights.
Without wasting any time, Prima led me to the operating table, where I immediately lay down. Another nurse began to undo my hospital gown, covering my naked body like a blanket. My arms were spread out, one on each side like I was in sacrifice.
Even though my mouth was pasty, I still was able to say, “….My….legs are shaky.”
“We’re going to hold you,” Prima said, as she took hold of my right hand.
My mother took hold of my left. “You’re such a beautiful girl,” she said, wearing a mask over her nose and mouth just like the rest of them.
Prima squeezed my hand as another nurse tightened velcro around my leg, and I began to feel trapped.
Time and time again people told me fear was a completely normal emotion when approaching major surgery. But it wasn’t really how I dealt with it. I was a child. Most of the time I didn’t know where I was or how I got there.
Pull. Pull. Settle.
But, my legs were shaking. After all, they were about to slice my left leg open with a blade.
“Prima…prima means cousin in Spanish,” I said, and I suddenly felt very cold.
“I know,” Prima said. “I’m everybody’s cousin.”
So, even if I’d never met Prima until this day four years ago, I held her hand and didn’t let go. I didn’t let go when the IV went into my arm, didn’t let go when they put that mask over my face. I didn’t let go when Mom’s face was the last thing I saw, the anesthesiologist’s voice the last thing I heard. Her voice melted into one long line of unintelligible things, words I could no longer decipher, and I knew: this was it. I took deep breaths, and let the medicine take me off to sleep.
“You’re in the recovery room, sweetheart.” Those were the first words I heard when I came to. The first thing I saw was a flurry mess of nurses and doctors and monitors.
I wish I could tell you guys I went to Neverland or someplace equally as awesome, like I watched all you guys from above somewhere for those three hours I was under the knife. But I didn’t. Or at least, I think I didn’t.
“Can you wiggle your toes?” Was the first question posed to me. I did so, and the pain hit for the first time. Really known as muscle spasms, it’s what happens when your muscle contracts and holds itself there. Even if they are quick, they are very painful and often take my breath away. I couldn’t talk, so I nodded my head.
The nurse said my name. I asked her what her name was.
“I put you on the PCA pump for morphine, alright?”
I only understood one word out of that whole sentence: morphine. Which meant drugs.
The nurse put me on morphine and started me on oxygen so I could “wake up.”
Almost out of nowhere, my surgeon appeared. “Hi baby,” he said, in a moment of tenderness I’ll never forget.
When I opened my mouth to speak, I almost didn’t recognize my voice because of my scratchy throat. Crying, I asked, “….Did it work?!”
“It worked! Everything rotated nicely.”
Nothing sounded so glorious as two straight legs. So simple, yet mind-blowing. The game had changed forever. Life changed forever…of that I was certain.
And with those thoughts, as I lay in a hospital bed, I closed my eyes to rest in complete and utter relief.