From my hospital bed I crawl onto the operating table. I am shaking. Not because of the cold air in the operating room but because I am scared.
“Are you nervous?” the nurse asks me. “I am scared,” I say. “Why?” This time it’s my anesthesiologist asking. The same one who helped with my PAO surgery. I remember his face. And the fact that he doesn’t seem to be an asshole, like they say most anesthesiologists are. “Last time was so horrible.” “Ya, that was a major and very painful surgery!” We both agree.
They ask me to spread my arms to the side. I feel tied down like on a cross. When they try to put the IV in I look straight up to the ceiling, from where the huge lights will soon shine on my unconscious body. They use me as a pin cushion. “Your veins are tiny,” they say. I know. Nobody ever finds them on their own, they always need help from someone else. I could use some help here too. A kind word. Someone telling me everything is gonna be ok. Please. I fight back my tears. I could use some help too. But then they put the mask over my mouth, tell me to breathe, I try to keep my eyes open, I fail. Forced to surrender. Into nothing. Into where they cut me open. The scar I’ve been taking care of for the past 9 months. Back to the beginning.
I wake up and through the blur I can see there’s an oxygen mask covering my mouth. I try to feel if there’s pain like the last time but this time it feels bearable. I only feel the stinging of the wound. I touch my front teeth with my tongue. It is one of the first things I do. One of the only things I cán do. Finding out whether they damaged my teeth or not when they put the tube in. I like my teeth. I’m relieved to find out they seem to be ok. I’m even more relieved to not feel sick. I slip into sleep again and the next time I wake up I’m even able to speak a full sentence. This is so different than last time. It must have been the morphine that kept me from being able to talk for 2 days.
Life is fragile in the recovery room. I guess life and death live closer to each other here, like two neighbors only having to take a few steps to show up on each other’s porch. I feel for the woman next to me. She has to pee but she can’t. The nurse says she’ll use a cath. Here we go again. The fear of not being able to do basic animal things on your own, like going to the bathroom. Life is not only fragile here, it’s also hard. And yet there’s a softness too, on the edge, in the calm after the storm. I can feel my vulnerability to the depth of my new bones.
4 hours after surgery they roll me back to the ortho unit. I know Daniel will be worrying already, cause I’m gone for too long. He’s working on his computer in the hallway. He has spent so much time in this hospital, waiting for me, taking care of me, advocating for me. What would I do without him? This is too much for just one person.
The nurses take away the documents that hang at the foot end of my bed. “Wait!” I yell… “My screws! My screws must be there!” They hand them over to me, and I keep them in my small hands. Those fuckers were inside of me. I love them and I hate them at the same time. No way I’m gonna throw them away. They are a symbol of what I went through, of how everything fell apart, of how I couldn’t move or walk anymore, and then with their help and my blood, sweat and tears I relearned it all from scratch.
I’m back to keeping it calm for a few weeks now. Nothing compared to the original surgery. Nothing. Compared, this is a walk in the park. And yet… I feel that with every surgery I become more and more vulnerable. The further I get on this journey the more I realize how fragile and precious life is. Every surgery peels away a layer of my armor. Until there’s only me left. One day I will be dust.
You see, that’s what the recovery room does. That room at the edge of hope and despair, of visible and invisible, of past and future, of mountains and deserts. It remembers me that just like the mountains and deserts I am made out of dust.
And believe me or not but it feels good to know, that in the end, we all are dust.
Life, I tell you, life… I love you!
a very humble and grateful Cat
PS to my surgeon who will probably never read this: THANK YOU! Thank you! Thank you (also to my nurses and anesthesiologist)!!! Next time I let you cut me open and break my bones again we first need a good talk though…