It’s come to this.
I have reached that point in my life where I can toss and turn and stare at the ceiling at 2 am in the morning and yet put me in a recumbent position in the course of the day – the dentist chair for example, with the light in my face and the water gurgling and a metal pick in my mouth – and I’ll be asleep in a matter of moments. So goes my experience with the
MRI – magnetic resonance imaging – for my traitorous, injured knee. The swelling has not gone down and the discomfort has increased and so the amazing Dr. Stu has suggested he “take a look”. The machine, which they slide you into after asking if you’re claustrophobic and wouldn’t you rather go home is a huge donut that clanks and whistles and hums and burps and belches and is loud enough that they give you earphones to deaden the noise. The earphones in this case are playing Barry Manlow – hardly an improvement on burps and belches – and I’m tempted to wildly wave at the technician to change the channel – but it’s too late, I’m already dozing off. I wake up a half on hour later to Celine Dion
I am told Dr. Stu will have the results on Monday and will call. Not one to sit on bad news, he calls me Sunday night and tells me that I have a torn meniscus and a partial tear of the ACL. I know what these are by name only but am able to translate that my knee is seriously fucked up. Not so, says Dr. Stu.
“We’re going to fix you right back up, as good as new, Steve.”
I find this alarming. “We” suggests that I’m going to be a part of this and as mentioned, I’m always more comfortable when other people do things for me.
The bad news, says Dr. Stu, is that we are going to be rehabilitating for six months.
That, I realize, is where the “we” meaning “me” comes in. As one who hates the monotony of repetitive exercise – I would rather trim toenails than lifts weights – this is going to be a bitch.
I’ve only had it once before – very simple carpel tunnel on the hand (knock wood) – but it involved general anesthesia and it made me realize I am one of those people who are afraid they won’t wake up. I found it to be an acute form of airplane travel. You’re pretty positive that nothing is going to happen, but at the same time you’re aware disasters do happen and you would find it very disconcerting if one should happen to you.
In terms of general anesthesia, I also find it annoying to think that if I don’t wake up, there's the possibility I won’t even know that I didn’t wake up. And this, of course, invariably gets me thinking/obsessing on the complexities of an unconfirmed afterlife. Do plants believe in heaven? If they don’t, why should I? Do plants know they’ll be reborn again in the spring? Even if they do, I don’t. I want facts, not faith.
I arrive at the out patient clinic at for surgery. I read a golf magazine which, after years obsessing about the game, I now find boring. I read a men’s fitness magazine which features an article on a tattooed, cross training television actor who eats six small gluten free meals a day and drinks two gallons of water, After years of working there, I now find Hollywood boring.
Forty minutes and three magazines later, one of them Popular Mechanics, I am taken to a small pre-op space where a no nonsense nurse, who I sense doesn't like me, asks me do I smoke, drink alcohol, have dentures, contacts, open sores, metal plates in my head, implants and when is the last you ate and/or drank water.
No, just a little, no, no, not presently, do loose screws count, HUH?, and as instructed, yesterday evening and before bedtime respectively.
She gives me a paper smock and booties, tells me to change and goes to talk to the patient on other side of the curtain. In a matter of fact voice he tells her that he smokes two packs a day, goes through maybe a six pack or more every evening, has several false teeth, wears a pacemaker and had juice, coffee and a breakfast bagel a little more than an hour ago. When questioned further, he says it’s his shoulder being operated on, not his stomach.
The plane is leaving the gate.
My anesthesiologist is Dr. Levine. He is friendly and personable and far too cheerful, and I immediately suspect he’s not telling me something. In a minute, says Dr. Levine, we’ll be going down the hall to the operating theatre where he’ll give me a little buurschh – he makes a sound effect - and voila, I’ll be out like a light. It sounds ominous and I say so. Dr. Levine just smiles and tells me to start “planning my dream”. But first he has a few questions. Do I smoke, drink alcohol, have dentures, pacemakers, metal plates in my head, implants and when did I eat and drink last?
Inspired by my neighbor, this time I tell the truth about the alcohol.
When I get to operating room – it’s 20 yards away and they make me walk – Dr. Stu is waiting. I greet him by his title – Doctor Stu, I say - it seems only appropriate in this, his work place. Unlike me, he looks confident and rested and his blue scrubs emphasize his muscles. You know he’s gotten in his five hundred push-ups and sit-ups before coming in this morning. Dr. Stu looks like he’s been anticipating this one for months.
How we doing, Steve, we ready?
Yes, I say. We are.
I lay down on the operating table. It is surprisingly comfortable. Someone places a pillow beneath my head and wonderfully, warm blankets across my body. The lights are bright, just like the dentist’s office. Waitn a minute, I could sleep through this all by myself. Who needs anesthesia? I am just about to bring up the possibility –
(To be continued. We hope)