My Adventure in St. Louis: Part II

Valentine’s Day. The big surgery day had finally arrived after months and months of anticipation. I woke up early, ignored signs of hunger and thirst as I couldn’t eat or drink before the procedure, washed up, got dressed in comfy clothes and fuzzy socks with sneakers, and headed to the hospital. As I said in my previous post, I was now at peace and happy to go with the flow.

Checking in for surgery was relatively easy and painless, and soon enough a nurse called me into pre-op. I didn’t notice that she was wearing a festive shirt with a heart on it until much later. The fact this was all taking place on Valentine’s Day didn’t bother me all that much, because honestly, if I had to miss any holiday to get this surgery done, I’d pick this one. Not that I don’t love getting a card or a box of chocolates; but to be honest the whole thing seems like an invention for card companies, anyway. Valentine’s Day should be celebrated every day with the right person with whom one feels cherished and loved. Enough about that, though.

Once I was fully prepped for surgery, there was quite a bit of waiting around with two extremely important people I chose to accompany me on this adventure: my mom and my boyfriend. Seeing as my mother is my mother, the woman who literally brought me into this world and has been taking care of me ever since–and is an expert on just the right way to do it–that pick was an obvious one. As for my boyfriend, frankly that choice was an obvious one as well. Why? Firstly, he makes me happier than I’ve ever been and secondly, a huge part of me wanted him to experience this part of my life with me: surgery, hospitals, recovery, physical pain, discomfort, et cetera….basically an amalgamation of all my past experiences as a participant in the medical system–the patient–from infancy until now.

To be clear, I’m not saying I wanted my boyfriend to experience the negative side of all this just for the hell of it. No. There is definitely a positive side to it, too. I wanted him to see it all first hand, to truly know that I didn’t start out in life the way I was when we first met. I wasn’t trying to prove anything to him, because I didn’t and don’t need to. I was simply and purely wanting to share a side and part of myself that he had yet to see; a special kind of vulnerability and perhaps fragility that’s tougher to put into words than to actually be seen.

I’m also not saying that my boyfriend doesn’t realize and acknowledge those qualities about me already, pre-SDR. Of course he does. He’s not oblivious. He is observant, listens, and he loves me to the moon! Why else would he have taken several days off work and flown out to Missouri with me? I am not defending or justifying why I invited him to come along on the trip. I am very happy with how everything turned out. This is just raw honesty: a glimpse inside why I made the choices I did surrounding this event; my thought processes, if you will.

Both of them, Mom and Boyfriend, comforted and supported me in all the ways I needed them to, and knew they would. As I changed into a hospital gown and got draped in heated blankets, my two peeps and my ride-or-dies made me laugh, held my hand, kissed my forehead, and took selfies and other photos with me. It’s obvious that I like to document important happenings in my life as evident by this very blog, so there’s the reasoning behind that in case you were at all interested.

I was met with several faces as I waited in pre-op, and to just name a few: nurse practitioners on my pain team; another nurse practitioner who put in my IV; a child life specialist; and finally as time ticked down, the anesthesia team. A visit from them only meant one thing: they were nearly ready to bring me to the operating room, and I would have to say “see you later” to my family. When I did, I put on a brave face and gave both Mom and Boyfriend kisses on the cheek and a hug, and didn’t let either of them go without a resounding I love you.

The anesthesia resident entered with several others behind him and introduced himself, soon giving me the sedative that I had repeatedly asked for–the one that was going to make me loopy and hopefully erase all worries about what was going to happen next.

“OK, are you ready?” the resident asked. As I lay comfortable in the bed, hair braided, glasses off, accompanied by my stuffed monkey named Alejandro and a stuffed cat I had just acquired named Lucille Ball–my “squad” as I affectionately called them right then–I said something like, let’s do it. The bed began to move, and I left my real squad behind. I wouldn’t see them again until I was in recovery. They said for me the whole experience would feel like a few seconds, but for Mom and Boyfriend, it would really last hours. At least three, to be exact. It’d be agonizing for them, but by that point I wasn’t thinking about that because the sedative had begun to take effect and I honestly don’t even remember being wheeled down the hallway.

Oddly though, I remember bits and pieces of the OR. Bright lights; a table; other staff whose faces lacked detail. The anesthesia resident was talking to me, but I don’t remember what he said. I do remember, however, the feeling of another drug being pushed into my IV and flowing through my veins. I remember a mask being put over my face…and that was that.

When I woke up, I was in recovery, eyes blinking open and seeing a friendly nurse’s face. It was blurry without my glasses, but I saw enough. “Hi!” she said.

“…Did it happen already?” I asked, my voice almost unrecognizable from my throat being so scratchy.

“Yep! It happened!” She proceeded to ask me more questions, but I don’t remember what those were. I do remember being extremely inquisitive. She’s already asked me like a million things, the nurse told another nurse at one point. I honestly found that funny, but was a bit too out of it to laugh out loud. “Are you ready to see your family now?”

That question was my favorite of all. Of course I accepted, not wanting to spend another minute apart from my loved ones. When Mom and Boyfriend entered, I saw the gentle smiles on their faces, the relief, the love.

I remember feeling proud. I had done it. After all that waiting, the surgery was over. Despite my own relief and happiness and pride for getting through it, I knew deep down that the really, really hard part was right around the corner.