Readiness Case Study 12.432

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You need surgery to remove a massive growth in your torso. “Torso” because the tumor’s too big to be more specific. Your surgery’s scheduled for 10 in the morning. You were told to arrive at the hospital by 8. Your son turned 3 last week.

You check in at 7:45 in the morning. Prep Nurse calls your name. You’re impressed, and a little disappointed, with their punctuality.You’ve never had surgery before. They won’t allow your partner to come with you. You have an increasing urge to poop.

Prep Nurse says, “What happened? You were supposed to be here an hour ago.”

Your sphincter convulses. “They told me 8 o’clock,” you blubber. You’re confused, squeezing one butt cheek, then the other, and again. “Is the surgeon angry?” You bury your freezing hands between the chair and your thighs.

Prep Nurse, after a calculated silence, says, “Yeah, you’re too well put together to be the late kind.”

You’re flattered? She hands you a checklist. You ask for the restroom. She smiles. You hope the fan is loud to the outside world. You consider air vent as escape route, wonder if you show your dad enough love (you know the answer). He’s hanging out with his grandson. They share a name (a gesture).

You’re on your back on a gurney, rolling, conscious. It’s emphatically pedestrian—the swish swish of the orderly’s scrubs, the squeak of the wheel, the purpling chill in your feet.

Your gurney’s pulled over in a hallway cut-out before the operating room. A rest area off a highway, the ones without restrooms, a glorified shoulder as traffic screams around you.

You can see the doors to the OR. You cannot see inside. Later, you’ll remember that you’d gone in, that you’d been awake and aware at first. You’ll strain to recall faces, phrases, smells. You’ll remember only that you were there and things were done to you.

Anesthesiologist appears, gives you something for anxiety and a burst of syllables amounting to a name. You wish he was older. You wish his voice had less static, more anything you could understand.

“You want an epidural?”

“Do I?”

“Do you?”

Here’s what you know about epidurals: large needle in your spine.

“Are there risks?”

You consider the doors behind him, the angry surgeon still waiting. Or he’s left. It’s a new surgeon you’ve never met, a day drinker with a spotted liver and shaky hands.

“There’s always risks.”

You turn to your partner. They don’t allow for partners.

“Are there benefits?”

“Usually? Half the time. Half the people. Sometimes.”

You drift. When you come to again, Surgeon stands over you. Three of them, four. Seems you’ve been in an accident. The air is urgent. You have a daughter, too, Daisy. Eleven months. Might take her first steps today.

One of the masks beneath two of the yellowed eyes looking down on you: “We’re going to fashem mach zoo liggle craven. It should work. But it might not. In that case, we’ll have to square the difficulty of the Y inverter and crayola a juju fruit. Chances of that working are greatly increased if we 12 point 3 the 5 6 5 according to the regulation code before we attempt the fashem mach. But we need your permission first. We’ll film you either shaking or nodding your head to either withhold or affirm your consent. Are you ok with this?”

You pass out again. You wake up and your stomach hurts. It didn’t hurt before. If it was urgent before, it’s what, now? Surgeon forehead sweat drips into your mouth. They won’t proceed without an answer vis-á-vis the epidural. You no longer have the strength to sit up and your kids are getting increasingly translucent in your mind.

Readiness Case Study 12.432