EPISODE SIXTEEN, PART 1: A Review of Laparoscopic Surgery at Hospital Santander
Day 84 of Illness
“Mi amour,” I struggled. “Mi amour es…..es….aqui?”
The hospital orderly had come with a wheelchair to take me to my room at Hospital Santander in Reynosa, Mexico. Ish had left me alone briefly to handle payment. Now, I was terrified I’d be whisked upstairs and never find Ish and I didn’t know enough Spanish to explain that my boyfriend was here, and the only word that I could think of was “Hermano” (because I watch a lot of Arrested Development), but I knew that if I uttered the word hermano in reference to Ish, this would become an exceptionally awkward stay.
The orderly looked sympathetic, like he too wished I would make sense.
“Mi amour?” I tried again weakly, as Ish poked his head around the corner.
“I’m here,” he said, and I sighed with relief and smiled at the orderly, like, see, that guy, he’s my love, I’m not crazy. I shrugged. “Hablo porquito Espanol,” I explained. The orderly nodded and smiled. Ish and the orderly spoke and joked a little as we got on the elevator.
Up until last night, I had not fully grasped what I was about to do: have surgery in a foreign country where I do not speak the language. People would be cutting into me tomorrow, and I would not be able to understand what was going on. I felt like a blind little kid, being led by an invisible hand. I knew that hand was Ish’s, and I knew I trusted him. Last night, I decided I trusted him with my life.
I didn’t say it, but I wrote him a note in case something went wrong during the surgery. I knew risks weren’t extremely high, but if I didn’t wake up, I wanted him to have some sort of solace. I cursed myself for not having a will, and frantically thought of all the songs I hadn’t recorded. They would die with me, if I died. I decided I would do my best not to die. I had unfinished business.
The elevator reached floor 3 and stopped. Ish walked alongside the orderly and me, to room 324.
The orderly spoke to Ish and left. Ish translated that we would wait here. I must put on the hospital gown.
I changed into the gown and Ish and I watched Mexican television, trying to fill the room with something other than a dense fog of fear and uncertainty. If I did in fact have endometriosis, the doctors would cauterize it and I would wake up relatively pain-free. If I did not have endometriosis, I would wake up, still in pain, still clueless as to its cause, plus added pain from the surgery. It was a gamble. I tried not to think about what I would do if they didn’t find endometriosis.
All the symptoms line up, I told myself. I’d extensively researched endometriosis by this point, and had come to identify with it. This is the best choice we could make with the information we have available. I imagined if I had stayed in Austin, curled up in my bed in pain, waiting for a few more weeks before being able to have a laparoscopy. I knew this was a less tortuous option.
The morning in room 324 was a foggy dream of nurses coming in and out of the room, speaking to me, Ish explaining I don’t speak Spanish, them speaking to Ish, Ish translating to me. We learned an emergency victim was in the operating room and my surgery had been pushed back a couple hours. We were ok with that. A nurse came in and bound up my legs with bandages.
“This is to keep your circulation good during the procedure,” Ish explained.
A nurse came in, spoke, then left before Ish had a chance to translate.
“What did she say?” I asked.
“She said she’ll be back to shave you,” said Ish.
“Did she say where?” I asked.
“No,” said Ish. We both pondered in silence.
Nurses put an IV in my left hand. I tried not to move it, tried not to feel the crawling sensation of metal beneath the skin. Meds were injected into the IV. The pain lessened. The nurse came back and shaved my belly and gave my crotch a buzz cut, essentially. I tried not to giggle, loopy on the meds.
Ish held me on the bed until it was time for the surgery. He translated that I must take off my glasses, and take out my retainer.
SIDENOTE: I HAVE TERRIBLE EYESIGHT. WITHOUT GLASSES, EVERYTHING LOOKS LIKE VAGUE BLOBS OF COLOR. ALSO, THE TEETH ON EITHER SIDE OF MY FRONT TEETH FELL OUT AS BABY TEETH BUT NEVER CAME BACK AS ADULT TEETH (NO WONDER I FEAR ABANDONMENT), SO I WEAR A PARTIAL DENTURE/RETAINER. I HAVE CONSIDERED IMPLANTS, BUT I CAN PLAY SOME REALLY AWESOME PRANKS WITH REMOVABLE TEETH, SO, YOU KNOW, I SEE IT AS AN ADVANTAGE.
Ish walked alongside the gurney as I was rolled to the elevator and taken downstairs. I kept my eyes fixed on the blob that I knew to be Ish. I tried to smile at him, to make light of it, but a tear fell out of my eye. We reached the doors of the operation wing and Ish could not follow. I rolled ahead, surrounded by teal scrubs and human blobs of color and I understood nothing and the nurses would speak and I would try to understand and shrug and they patted me, It’s ok, We know you don’t understand. I felt so helpless, so lost, toothless, eyeless, wordless, in a completely foreign world, about to lose consciousness and be under a strange knife.
They rolled me into the OR. I saw vague blobs of silver and gray, machines, tubes, scrubs. The doctor over my head said something and I shook my head. A doctor translated in broken English: “This will make you sleepy.” He injected a medication into my IV.
I had two thoughts before I went under.
The first was: Wouldn’t it be terrifying if I woke up from this surgery and no one was here, like in the Walking Dead?
I was quickly slipping into blackness.
Last thought: Maybe I’ll wake up fluent in Spanish.
I vaguely hoped that out of the two, the latter would happen, then slipped into total darkness.