(Cross-posted on Cowbird; sharing here to allow for comments.)
Last year my heart broke. Twice.
Doctors poked holes in my thighs and snaked tubes through my body and into my heart. The tubes carried a tiny camera and a miniature blowtorch to break the circuits that were misfiring, causing my heart to beat like hummingbird wings. (That’s not just pretty language; when your heart beats three hundred times in a minute it feels like a bird is fluttering in your chest, desperate to get out.) The first procedure didn’t work. The second procedure did, and also changed the rhythm of my heart, though that’s a different story.
Before they wheeled me away that first time, I cried and told a few people I loved them, just in case. The operating room was uncomfortably cold. A strong nurse moved me from gurney to table, leaving my blankets behind. As I shivered under my thin cotton hospital town, she told me it would be better in just another minute. Two long plastic cylinders inflated with hot air and pressed up against my skin, one on each side. I stopped shivering. A bear hug, she said. I laughed. Much better.
A different nurse attached metal rails to the table next to me. The doctor might need to bring me in and out of sedation, she explained. Some people try to sit when they wake up; she had “reminders” to help keep me on my back. She held up a pair of soft leather handcuffs that looked awfully risqué for a hospital. I giggled. She winked as she strapped me down.
The anesthesiologist looked through his collection of vials. Let’s start with a nice chardonnay. My head swam. Now, how about a martini? The room melted away. Mid-procedure they brought me back out from under (the reminders were the only thing that kept me from bolting upright), and everyone in the room was a mind reader, everyone knew the content of my dreams. Magic.
(It wasn’t magic; I dreamed of the things they talked about as they worked. I wish they hadn’t told me.)
Sedation doesn’t linger in your senses like general anesthesia, and I am not a patient person. I was ready to go home well before they were willing to release me. I did not want to wait until the nurse brought me a dry turkey sandwich and watched me eat it. I did not want to wait for a bedpan when I had to pee. (I did not want to use a bedpan at all.)
I did want to walk out of the hospital by myself, but I couldn’t talk my way out of the wheelchair ride from my hospital bed to my car, lest I fall and sue. In hindsight I’m glad they stood firm; they had taken more out of me than my pride would admit.
The holes in my legs had to be watched for a few days, so my veins didn’t open back up and bleed me out. They looked like fang marks, which I hoped made me look tougher than I felt. Before they scabbed over, I could see yellow fat just under the skin. My insides looked like raw chicken.