Monday, September 24, 2007

"C" Day

Jan went into the OR at 10:15am.

She was calm and in a good spirit. A short nurse with a heavy accent came to take her from the patient waiting area in the 2nd floor OR section. She asked Jan a few standard questions about consent for the operation, recognition of her own signature, allergies. Jan joked that without her glasses she was practically blind, that she could not see the face of the nurse but trusted she worked for the hospital; the nurse did not catch the humour, but politely assured Jan that everything was fine. All we could she of her face behind the surgical mask and cap was a pair of dark eyes with very long eyelashes, she was probably in her early thirties. She checked Jan's bracelet and compared that to a card with Jan’s information to make sure this was the right patient. I could not help the thought that without these checks, probably in the past some patients were carried into the OR for illnesses they didn't have. From where we were, we could see the ORs, a series of rooms to the right of the hallway with sliding opaque glass doors. Right in front of us, a flat screen monitor with codes and info on each one of the ORs -just like the ones used at the airport for flight information- names flashing, numbers changing, nurses carrying people in and out of these rooms, people being wheeled-in, people being cut, people being put together, lives right on the line, some make it, others don’t. The nurse went into one of these rooms with Jan. This is as far as we were allowed to go. Mom and I picked up Jan’s bag’s of clothes and proceeded to the waiting area.

We started the day at 5:45am. I could not sleep, so I got out bed and went to the other room to do push-ups. Jan was half awake. At 6:15am we were all up, and left to the hospital at around 6:40am. There was hardly any traffic, so we made it to the hospital in a third of the regular time. Jan talked to Mom and as a co-pilot gave me instructions on every turn, every stop light and every movement the car made.

Upon arrival at 7:00am, we went to the day-surgery reception area in the G level, to check-in; where we waited for about 75 minutes for our turn. About 20 people sat there also waiting. At last an old black nurse came for Jan. About a half an hour later they asked Mom and I to join Jan. She was on one of this new sleek Patient Transfer Board (PTB)–in an adjacent area with about 10 cubicles separated by sliding curtains. This is where they ask the patient to strip of their street clothes and take off their jewellery, and are given one of these blue gowns with an opening on the back. This is where the social persona is left behind and everyone becomes a patient or the relatives of a patient. It’s like entering into a different country with different dress and behaviour codes. Illness is a great equalizer: no one can show off their expensive clothes or fashion shoes. People are united here by the fact that they all are suffering from one illness or another, wating to be cut and stapled together; their bodies are no more than delicate membranes filled with water. Everyone here is stripped naked, covered by the same thin humble robe, stripped of any delusion of self-importance and grandeour. It is clear that the only difference between one patient and the next is just the unique consciousness of an individual experience and the memory of it. We waited here for another 45 minutes and then we accompanied Jan to the second floor, to the waiting area just outside the ORs.

Mom had been reading aloud from a novel Jan likes. At times Jan laughed at the story. I heard the words, but could not attach any meaning to them, my mind was busy thinking about our presence here for the third time, about the last 19 months of our lives, about the lessons we have learned, about the profound changes in our personalities and faith.

At 10:15am We said goodbye, I love you, sweet dreams, and there she went, on that sleek new PTB, under the several covers because she was "freezing" all the time...

Mom and I went to the cafeteria to wait for the 3.5 to 4 hours the operation will take. Coincidentally, I bumped at about 11 am into Dr. Schwartz, the neurosurgeon, who was in line on the coffee shop. we had a brief talk about the clip jan ahs in her brain and he mentioned that he was "on call" in case they needed him for the operation (see recent blog!). But he was going into is office... hmmm.


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