“Okay Mrs N, please disrobe completely and put your dignity in this bag.”
I blinked at the nurse. “Pardon me?”
“Your clothes; please put them in this bag.” She handed me a couple of hospital gowns; you know the kind. “Put the blue one on with the opening at the back and put the green one on like a housecoat.”
I vaguely wondered if anybody ever wore their housecoat backwards, like one of those snuggie blankets with the arms, and whether the owner of such a blanket had ever proclaimed that he was indeed wearing the outer gown like a housecoat and he couldn’t help it if his bum was bare. Then I wondered if any exhibitionists ever wore the gowns that way on purpose and got away with it because, well gosh darn, they’re hospital gowns!
I quickly changed and made sure my two gowns were on the right way. I might as well salvage what little dignity I had left, I thought, seeing as I packed most of it away in a bag that would end up sitting in the corner of my hospital room for the next four days while I sported that stylish open-back gown.
Oh well, such is the dignity of surgery. You don’t get to bring much of it with you when you go for the surgery, but then again, dignity is the last thing on your mind. You just want everything to go well, and considering the fact that you’re letting a team of doctors and nurses (most of whom you’ve never even met before) rip you open, that’s not much to ask for.
It doesn’t matter that a stranger is going to put you into a coma. It doesn’t matter that another is going to shove a tube down you throat and control your breathing. You try not to think of the fact that your legs are going to be in stirrups; as a woman, that position has become a given. But you do strike one up for dignity if you remembered to shave your legs that morning. And don’t forget the fact that you have met your surgeon at least once or twice and she’ll be the one who’ll slice you open and sew you up again. Of course, I’m not sure about the sewing you up again part. I’ve watched enough television to know that at least two members of the OR team are having, or have had an affair and are probably arguing over your comatose body. And surely the assisting surgeon is having a meltdown because her love life is going nowhere. And with my luck, she’ll be the one to sew me up because my head surgeon probably has to run off to call her bookie.
(Noticed that I keep saying “she”? That’s right, my whole OR team consisted of women. It seems more and more women are opting for careers in the medical field. Just a little info for the guys to maul over the next time THEY find themselves knees up in a pair of stirrups.)
Ever notice how a doctor will always say “The procedure is simple”? Of course it is; years of medical training allow her to say that and actually mean it. What she fails to mention is the fact that while the procedure is simple, the recovery is pure hell. And no matter how prepared you are for it, you wake up from the surgery feeling like you’ve been stabbed in the gut (and chances are you have been). Of course, you’re sporting an IV with a morphine drip, so who cares if you have a large cut across your abdomen and a catheter draining you of even more dignity, just when you thought you didn’t have any left.
That’s the nice thing about painkillers; they can dull all kinds of pain. It doesn’t matter that the main topic of conversation for the next few days will be your bodily functions. You’re in the hospital, you’re high on Tylenol 3s and you’ve nothing else to do but worry about your pee bag (which you giddily show off to your visitors) or whether you’re going to overflow your barf bowl (I won’t even go there).
But you know what seems to be the most exciting bodily function when you’re in the hospital? Passing gas! You have to hand it to nurses; what other profession can allow you to thoroughly discuss farting with your clients? “Now Mrs. N, it’s very important for you to pass gas. You cannot eat until you pass gas. You cannot lose the IV until you pass gas. You cannot leave the hospital until you pass gas.” Imagine being held hostage by a bodily function.
“No prob, Nurse!” you say in your drugged stupor. “Yer lookin’ at a pro!”
I know, right? You’re lying in a hospital bed in a room with three other women who’ve probably been told the same thing. You patiently wait for your bowels to co-operate while vaguely wondering why you’re not hearing any gassy noises coming from your roommates. Soon the gas pains set in and they join all the other abdominal pains so that it becomes absolute agony to let go of that treasured gas bubble. Ah, finally… oops, that was noisy… I hope the other ladies didn’t hear that… It sucks to be a woman sometimes. I bet all the guys in the men’s wards are having contests on who can fart the loudest! No matter; now I have something to brag to the nurses about. Now I can eat!
Which brings us to hospital food. It really isn’t that bad, although I think the passing gas thing is a ruse to starve us so that we actually look forward to the food. Of course, when you haven’t eaten for three days, cream of broccoli soup isn’t exactly the first thing you want to pour down your throat. But hey, the crackers were good! And by the last day, I was actually enjoying the meatloaf!
So there’s my four-day hospital stay wrapped up in a dignity-free blanket. My catheter came out after a couple of days (at least I was able to show it off to most of my visitors first) and I got to pee in a measuring cup. Well, a big one anyway. Hey, we have to measure our dignity somehow! I guess 200cc’s of dignity, er, pee is a good sign that all is going well. By the fourth day I was able to take the rest of my dignity out of the clothes bag in the corner of the room, get dressed and leave the hospital on schedule.
There’s just one thing I always wonder about hospital stays. Why do they wake you up to give you a sleeping pill?
© 2011 – All rights reserved Loretta Notto, Mermaids and Lions & Other Mortal Creatures