From International Trips to IV Drips

One day I’m trekking the sunny trails of Machu Picchu in Peru; another I’m being sedated in a cold clinic in Florida. If 2014 taught me anything, it’s that life is full of surprises.

The nurse smells like grape. He must have candy in his mouth. I can smell its sweetness as he leans over me to adjust the blood pressure cuff on my left arm and attach ECG leads to my chest.

“Are you okay?” he asks me, and it seems like genuine concern.

“Just a little scared,” I confess. The tears are welling up in my eyes again. Before they can fall, I wipe them away with the back of my hand when he isn’t looking.

“Don’t worry. It’s an easy procedure.”

Everyone keeps saying that.

Another nurse approaches me and wraps a warm blanket over my shoulders. Until now, I hadn’t realized I was cold.

“You were in Peru not too long ago?”

I nod yes.

“What were you doing there?”

“Just living and working.”

She ties a rubber band over my bicep and pokes and prods at my forearm, searching for a usable vein. I wince when the needle penetrates my skin.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

This time I lie. “Yes.”

The sodium chloride drips every three seconds. I counted as I stared up at the bag attached to my right arm through the IV.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…drip.

I am the youngest person in this clinic.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…drip.

There was a Living Will attached to my scheduling forms.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…drip.

Next up is the anesthesiologist. I am just one in a line of several awaiting their turn. He grabs a clipboard and sits next to me.

“We’ll be using a drug today called propofol,” he tells me, as if that’s supposed to mean something to me.

I nod vacantly.

He hands me a paper to sign. I make sure not to read it.

It is cold in the procedure room. And dark. On the wall there is a map of the United States and a map of the world. The map of the world is black and has yellow dots marking certain spots, mostly concentrated in Europe. I wonder what the dots mean. Could it be all the places the GI doctor has traveled? No way. It’s not possible. Hundreds of dots span North America, South America, Africa, and Europe. An entire lifetime wouldn’t be enough for that many trips.

The anesthesiologist is sitting to my right filling out papers. A woman stands behind me. Another woman enters the room and introduces herself as Rebecca.

“What do you do?” I ask her because “Why the hell are there so many people in this room?” seems rude to me, even in my agitated state.

“I’m a nurse, and I’ll be assisting.”

She sticks plastic tubes in my nose. I’ve never had this done before. I wonder if they’re clean. Do they reuse these? Or do they throw them out and replace them with new ones for every procedure? I really hope these nubs haven’t been in someone else’s nostrils.

I crane my neck to my right and watch my heart rate on the screen. 69. Pretty low considering how scared I am. I wonder if I can make it go lower. To keep my mind off my fear, I play a game, “How Low Can My Heart Rate Go?” I breathe deeply and try to make my brain tell my heart to pump more slowly. 67. Not bad. I heard once that monks can lower their heart rate to the point they’re almost dead. 64 is the lowest mine goes before the doctor enters the room.

Next thing I know, they’ve flipped some switch. I feel like I am falling away from myself.

“Roll over onto your left,” they tell me.

I try to, but I am hooked up from all places. There are tubes coming from my nose, my right arm, my left arm. I feel tangled. Trapped. I start to sit up, and the nurse pushes me down.

“I need you to roll over for me, Amy. You’re going soon.” The voice behind me is the anesthesiologist.

I’m going soon. I’m going to lose consciousness as the propofol enters my IV and courses through my veins. For some reason, this makes me panic. I try to will myself awake, to fight the sleepiness.

“I’ve got her,” the anesthesiologist says as he pushes my back and rolls me to my left side. The nurse stuffs a plastic object into my mouth. I bite down. I try to keep my eyes open. I try to fight.

Everything fades to black.

Photo by Mr. Marco

“Do you know where you are?”

My vision is blurry. But the outline looks like Nurse Rebecca. I am lying on my back now in the same dimly lit procedure room.

The warmth. The glow. I need to go back to that. Each stroke of the pen of consciousness scribbles over the picture in my mind of whatever it is I just experienced.

“Do people dream when they’re under?” I ask her.

“Some do.”

I need to get back to that place. I surrender myself once again to sweet slumber.

What comes next comes in flashes.

Now I am on a stretcher in a room filled with people on stretchers. There are curtains between us. How I got here, I cannot remember.

“Would you like something to drink? Sprite? Coke? Water?”

“Waaaa….terrrr,” I say. But it doesn’t sound like me. Why do I sound so slow? I am trying to speak the way I normally do, but it doesn’t come out that way. It’s like everything around me is happening at a normal pace, while I am stuck in slow motion.

I smack my mouth together a few times and make a face.

“I know your mouth tastes funny,” someone says. How does she know? “It’s the propofol.”

I sip water from a small paper cup someone hands me. The water is cold. Just like everything else in the clinic.

“You really should serve hot drinks,” I blurt. “It’s cold in here.”

The nurse laughs.

Someone dresses me. Why can’t I see? I feel someone pulling my clinic-issued socks off. I was actually hoping I’d get to keep those. They were soft and had rubber grips on the bottom so I wouldn’t slip on the tile floor.

Now I am being wheeled into a small room where my mother is waiting. My head keeps lolling back like my neck has turned to rubber. I can’t keep my eyes open.

The nurse shuts the door. “Everything looked fine,” she tells us. She says they took biopsies to run some tests in the lab, just in case.

My mother reaches over and wipes a tear from my face.

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