It is never a pleasant prospect. In fact it can be downright disconcerting.
I know, because I am going to undergo surgery next week. At first I wasn't at all nervous about it, but now I am just a tad apprehensive, the result of going to the hospital for tests and instructions.
My particular problem isn't anything really serious, at least as far as operations go. I have a hernia.
The problem was discovered recently when, after an entire lifetime of having an ``innie'' belly button, I suddenly developed an ``outie.'' At first I thought it was simply another sign of old age like losing hair, failing memory, and a general malfunction of body parts. But when it started to be painful, I went to the doctor who, sure enough, diagnosed a hernia.
(I blame the cat. Somehow he must have caused this.)
We decided it should be fixed, and that's when I learned that it had to be done by surgery.
At first I wasn't too concerned. After all, I was told it would be done ``outpatient.'' That was reassuring. How serious can it be if they are going to let you go home the same day?
So I went to the hospital Saturday to have some tests and get my instructions. That's when my confidence began to crumble a bit.
The health-care professionals tried to put me at ease. In fact, they didn't call it surgery at all; it's just “a procedure.'' But just when my mind was calm, they nailed me.
Do you know one of the first things they asked me? They wanted to know my next of kin and if I have a living will.
Next of kin? Was I going on some kind of suicide mission? Why in the world, if this is just a ``procedure,'' would they want my next of kin? You figure they want to send out mailers? And why would I need a living will if I didn't plan on dying?
I was moved from room to room where they took samples of my bodily fluids, gave me an EKG, took chest X-rays, and had me fill out and sign a lot of papers. I sat down and talked with a woman who explained what I would need to do on the day of my ``procedure,'' then I had a nice chat with the anesthesiologist.
About midway through this, I got the feeling the “procedure” wasn't going to be a lot of fun. That feeling was fortified when I was handed a pain chart and told to take it home and memorize it. The paper had divided pain into degrees ranging from zero (``No pain'') to 10 (``Worst pain imaginable, near delirium, incapacitating''). Each number had a brief explanation like that and I was to tell my doctor by number how much pain I was feeling.
Pain? Delirium? Incapacitating? My doctor never mentioned anything about pain. Why did there have to be pain? I don't like pain.
The anesthesiologist said I could have either a general or a spinal. I knew what a spinal was. That's what women have when they have babies and they are awake during the big event.
That didn't thrill me at all. The doctor explained that with a general anesthetic, I would get put to sleep and wake up when it's all over. Now that's the way to have an operation. Too bad they can't simply knock you out for several days and let everything be healed when you come to.
Apparently that's not part of the ``procedure'' - worst luck.
I guess it's too late to back out now, so I'll suffer through somehow. Although when you think about it, an ``outie'' really isn't so bad; you don't have to put up with the lint.
As for “incapacitating?”
Tom Ensign is a Blade columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.