Sunday, September 29, 2013


Is there anything more demeaning than a paper hospital gown? Every time I have to wear one--which has been far too often--I feel as if Cristo has attempted and failed wrap me. There was a middle-aged man at the hospital where I went yesterday morning, he was walking along the corridor looking for a rest room with his pale naked butt sticking out of the gown.

And what about catheters? I’m amazed no one has picked up their comedic potentials. They deal with pee, which is funny, and penises, which are always good for a laugh, and they make you walk funny and wear a frown as you do, because nobody, nobody, has ever smiled with a catheter inside them. Walking funny, we all know, is comedy gold. I’m sorry to say I’m not sure how much of this can apply to women while remaining politically correct, so once again being pc may lead to lost opportunities.

Yesterday, as the catheter implanted in me the day before was removed by a male nurse, I said all medical personnel should have to wear one of these humiliating devices at least one day out of the year. The nurse shuddered, said, “I don’t mind surgery; the only thing that scares me is having to wear one of those things.”

Also, I think Catheter would be a really great name for a little girl.  It sounds almost biblical: “And Catheter did say go forth and procreate safely because I am one with you, deeply held and the cause of relief and distress…”

So here’s what happened: It all went as planned. The day of the surgery, I got to the hospital at 6:15 a.m., driven there by my friend Paul who has now seen me through a half-dozen such procedures. I changed into a sky-blue hospital gown and was told to lie down on a gurney, shielded from the world by a curtain hanging from the ceiling.

A bunch of people came to see me.  Nurses, nursing assistants, two anesthesiologists, one anesthesiologist’s assistant, a person who put in the IV, and a guy pushing a mop around the hallway. The latter was possibly the friendliest of the lot.

I signed many papers, which is hard to do when you’re lying down. I didn’t have time to read them but I accepted the fact that if anything at all happened to me, including but not necessarily limited to an alien abduction, the hospital would not be responsible. I gave up my pants, undies, short, wallet and phone. I was festooned with little sticky pads attached to wires that went into a machine that beeped and burped. I went ahhh with my mouth wide open three times. I listened to the sounds endemic to a medical establishment, hurrying footsteps, rubber wheels on linoleum, pinging of machines, public address announcements, the wailing of an injured child, greetings from one nurse to another, telephones, faxes…

At 7:30 they hook up the IV and start the anesthesia drip (I’ll find out later they filled me with opiates, which truly pissed me off as I had specifically requested they not use opiates on me), and suddenly it’s 10 a.m., I am in the recovery room and I can feel the catheter scratching my urethra. My mouth is cottony, my eyes sandy and my groin hurts.

I wait. I wait some more.  Now that the operation is over, no one is particularly interested in my state of being. A nurse asks how I am, I say, “Just peachy…”

Around 10:45 the surgeon comes by.  This is unusual and I worry but he says everything went well, and it doesn’t look as if what he has taken out is invasive. Good news. Better news, he has already injected me with the chemotherapy solution. Intravenously, it makes you deathly ill, but shot directly into the bladder; there are few side effects save for a burning sensation that ebbs and flows.  I may not need to go through the six-week course of chemo.

It’s done.


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