I wake up early and in the dark we drive to the hospital. Traffic is light. The city is sleeping.
They lead me to a bed and give me a gown to change in to. They lay a plastic balloon blanket on my lap and hook it up to a hot air machine. My legs are warm. This is to keep my blood flowing during surgery and it helps with healing.
The surgeon makes his marks on my neck. His face is kind. His voice is calm. His hands are cool. His marker is blue.
I’m waiting in a hallway, my stretcher parked alongside a man waiting for his ankle to be repaired. I hear the clanking of silverware and it sounds like the back of a restaurant. I realize it must be surgical instruments being cleaned and arranged.
I’m in the middle of a large room. White, bright, cold but surrounded by a multitude of multi-hued friendly faces. With various accents they introduce themselves and then I go under.
Everything is black and noisy. I’m drenched in sweat and my body is convulsing. I hear a voice say “she’s waking up hard!” and another keeps asking me to talk “what are you doing? Talk to me. Talk to me.” I vomit into the darkness. Sleep.
I’m in so much pain. I try to breathe deep to assess my situation. Three good things: 1.) I’m alive. 2.) They didn’t have to cut through my sternum. 3.) I’m breathing on my own. Success.
I’m laying in my darkness and listening to the surgery team hand me over to the recovery nurses. They go through a run down of all my blood glucose levels and insulin doses during surgery. The numbers aren’t great but I hear that they corrected it all properly so I don’t fight the dark to try and speak. I’m aware of everything but I know they can’t tell. I don’t know if I could interact if I tried, so I don’t.
The nurses are taking off my heart monitors to attach new ones and I hear them asking “what’s this?” as they pick at my insulin pump infusion set. I fight the black enough to exclaim “don’t! It’s for my insulin pump!” Black again.
Blinding pain. I feel like I’m flailing about in a blizzard. Can’t see, can’t escape, can’t speak. A nurse is asking what level my pain is at. I hold up five fingers. She explains that 4 or 5 means bearable but interrupting rest. I immediately, frantically, hold up a sixth finger. She gives me some medication in my IV. Sleep.
In my darkness I hear two nurses at the foot of my bed reading through my binder. I had read it myself while I was parked in the hallway hours ago. They’re asking each other what MIP and MEP tests are. Are they blood tests? They’re not sure who to call to order them. I fight against the black. It’s like emerging from deep in the ocean, swimming upwards against the immense pressure. Maybe I should just give in and go back under. No, not this time. “They’re breathing tests” I say. “For Myasthenia Gravis. Normal oxygen sat….sats… saturation..tests aren’t enough. Because….because it’s a muscle disease. Those test my breathing muscles.”
The nurses look at me and one exclaims “look at that! You have eyes and a voice! Hello.”