The only thing different about the prep for this surgery was that the wait time in my pod was a little shorter. I was the first surgery of the day for Dr. M so once my IV was started, and I’d had my morning does of Versed there was not much left to do. My surgical PA came in and introduced himself for the fourth time. I’m not sure why he didn’t think I would remember him, he had been in the room during most of my consults with Dr. M, seen me after surgery the first time, and just like he was doing now, he had come to certify the side of the body we were operating on today.
This system is a “Check. Double-check.” Type of thing I guess but if you are unaware of the process it can be quite disconcerting. The first time I had ever had surgery was on my eyes as a child, specifically the right. The prep nurse came in and put a sticker over my right eye. When I asked her what it was for she said “oh it’s just so we operate on the correct eye dear. You don’t want us cutting on the wrong one haha!” This is another situation in which medical professionals don’t understand that normal people don’t watch people get cut up all day. To her it was just a sarcastic joke. As a 9 year old girl about to undergo her first surgery I had visions of waking up with mismatched body parts because my sticker had fallen off or been put in the wrong place. As years have gone by I guess this sticker system has been replaced by other fail safe measures like asking the patient the procedure. On the morning of my biopsy the nurse checking me in asked me, “So, what are you having done today Miss Fahs?”
I looked at her incredulous, “Don’t you know? Is it not written down? Does Dr. O know what we’re doing? Everybody stop. I need to speak with my surgeon.”
At Mayo they also ask you when you check in what procedure you are having done. I realize it is simply to make sure that the patient is aware and to make sure that what’s on the chart matches the expectation of the patient but isn’t there another way to ask it maybe? I can’t think of one but that question takes me by surprise every time.
Once you’re in your pod and the IV line is started a prep nurse will ask you again what side you are being worked on and double check with the chart and at Mayo they put a mark with permanent marker above my right eye. Then they pump you full of Versed and send in your surgical PA who asks you one more time what you are here for. He is the last “check” and afterwards he places another hospital bracelet in addition to your id bracelet that is a bright color on the wrist corresponding with the correct side of the body. (I guess it’s better than a tag on the end of your toe)
So of course I remembered my surgical PA. When he tried to introduce himself again I stopped him and patted his wrist, “of course I know who you are Eli, you are the one who makes sure Dr. M operates on the right side of my head. So far you have always gotten it right. Let’s continue batting a 1000 today shall we?”
He, like Dr. M, is pretty serious but I think it was the wrist pat that made him crack up. I was sitting there covered in a mountain of blankets because I get so cold, with my shower cap on, and my glasses (which are similar to the cat’s eye glasses Lisa Loeb used to rock in the 90’s, come on you can sing it right now guys, “you say, I only hear what I want to!”) and I was high as a kite (as usual). I probably looked like a little old woman patting his hand and calling him by an informal name. Before this I had referred to him as Elliot.
Chuckling, “alright Miss Fahs, I think we have everything set and ready to go. As soon as the surgical room is ready someone will be in to take you back. I’ll see you in there along with Dr. J and Dr. M.”
“Oh good! I’ll have all my boys in there with me. You know you guys should really get a girl on your team. Even things out a bit, you know, make it more interesting, and keep you three in line.” Oh Lord I was in full force today.
“Haha Miss Fahs you certainly keep things interesting as well as keep us in line.” I grinned
“I’ll try not to bleed out in the PACU this time.”
“Yes, please do.”
“Ok, now go scrub in. Do you guys really say that or is that just something they say on TV?”
“We really say that.”
“Okay then go do it! We’re burnin’ daylight here! and I’m not getting any younger!” Evidently I not only looked like a little old lady, Versed also turns me into an uppity grandmother from the deep south.
I sat there for what I believe were a few more minutes. I couldn’t tell you I was dozing in and out until someone came to get me. Something about the Mayo Clinic I also find fascinating is the precision with which every task is performed. I guess every first surgery of the day begins at the same time so as we pulled out of our pod we fell in line with plenty of other people in hospital beds who were being wheeled towards their own surgical suites. As we passed the nurses station there were probably four or five people standing there working so I gave them my best Miss America wave and pretended I was sitting on top of the back seat of a convertible with a sash on my shoulder and a crown on my head. Four of them started cracking up and waving back, the fifth one began intently looking at a computer screen. I’m going to guess she was the nurse who had administered my Versed dose and was checking to see if she had mistakenly given me way too much. I continued to wave and grin like an idiot until we passed through those huge double doors.
Then the parade was over.