Thursday, June 21, 2007

Surgeons are sadistic and Machiavellian- regarding my imminent spine surgery (warning, profanity herein. Lots of it.)

Spine Saga e-mail number 2, also edited so nobody sues my ass or punches me in the head when they see what I've written about them.

Sent: Monday, April 23, 2007 6:20 PM

Okay, so I'm having the surgery on Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital. Wish me luck. I should only be in the hospital for a day or two.

Now, on to why I think surgeons are sadistic and Machiavellian.

On Thursday evening, I got a call from my French doctor's handler or whatever she is. Her name is A. A. is probably somewhere in her mid- to late forties, is very nice, and kinda looks like the chick from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", but with red hair. I think A. is Greek, as well, actually.

A. has pictures of her boyfriend in her office. He is seriously hot. He's going on tour with Barbra Streisand this summer and has an album coming out. He's also apparently a soap opera and stage actor. When I saw the guy's headshot on A.'s wall, I figured he was some actor she liked. Then I noticed that she has lots of pictures of him on the walls, so I asked, "who's the hot guy?"

A. responded, "my boyfriend."

I honestly thought she was joking, like how my sister always says that that chick from Alias got her (K.'s) life or how Michael Vartan is her (K.'s) boyfriend. Then I realized that A. was serious, and being the oh-so-subtle person I am, I said, "NO!" and then just sat there gape-jawed. I'm pretty sure that there was a thought-bubble over my head reading, "no fucking WAY!"

Then I realized that it was obvious what I was thinking, so I brilliantly followed my thought-bubble with, "he's really hot."

Duh.That's why she has pictures of him all over her office.Wanna see some?

[Tough; I'm taking out the link for this blog so you'll just have to trust me.]

That's my French surgeon's handler's boyfriend. They've been together for 13 years. Bitch.

Okay, she's not a bitch (or if she is, I don't know it), but DAMN! How come I don't find men like that? Most of the ones I attract seem to be short, bald, in need of a dentist or all of the above. WTF?

Oh, wow, I totally derailed there, didn't I? Sorry about that. Back to why A----was calling.

A. was calling to tell me that my French surgeon and two other big muckety-muck chief-something doctors were reviewing my case on Thursday evening, which is apparently their little weekly get-together wherein they sit around and say things like, "all right, folks, to what excruciatingly painful tests have we not yet subjected our patients?" [That's the Machiavellian part- they wait until you're committed to this thing, THEN they start the real fun.]

In my case, it seems that there was one teeny, tiny little test that they wanted me to have before the surgery. It's called a discogram. Here's how a discogram works:

1. You go to a doctor with a secret sadistic bent (the doctor has the bent; you don't go there with one. Yeah, fuck you grammarians; I get a freebie now and then).

2. You fill out forms and put on one of those godawful gowns that every medical facility on the planet seems to like to make people wear.

3. If you're lucky, the doctor gives you a shot of Versed to help you chill out because you scoured the Internet reading everything you could find about discograms. If you're theoretically lucky but are a freak of nature, Versed has no effect on you. (Remember how Xanax did nothing for me when I had my MRI? Well, add Versed to the list of "drugs that people on the street will steal for because they're such a great high, but which have absolutely no effect on me".)

4. After the shot of Versed, you're put on your back on a table with a real-time x-ray machine next to it.

5. The doctor with the secret sadistic bent sticks a needle in your neck and injects novacaine. Into your neck. It is not pleasant. And oh, boy, does it get fun from here.

6. After the doctor with the secret sadistic bent, to whom will will henceforth refer as "DWSSB", has stuck a needle full of novacaine into your neck, he starts pulling out the REALLY long needles. Like a foot long. I swear.

7. DWSSB sticks the first needle INTO THE FRONT OF YOUR NECK ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO YOUR SPINE. Please note that novacaine doesn't actually make this something that doesn't hurt like a motherfucker.

8. DWSSB uses the live x-ray to guide the first needle into one of your discs. But wait, it's not over yet! DWSSB has actually put a hollow needle into your neck, and he now uses that hollow needle as the conduit for ANOTHER needle that he shoves into your spine. With the second needle, DWSSB squirts glow-in-the-dark (or glow-in-the-x-ray) dye into the disc. If it doesn't hurt, the disc is healthy. They do one healthy disc to serve as a baseline for comparison. It turns out that your "healthy" disc isn't really totally healthy, because this also hurts like a motherfucker.

9. DWSSB's assistant asks you to please not kick your leg when you writhe in agony because, well, you have foot-long needles stuck into your spine. DWSSB asks you to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the worst possible pain you can imagine (yes, you asked him for clarification on how this "pain scale" thing works). You rate the current pain at a 9. DWSSB asks if this feels like the same pain you usually feel, is it in the same places, etc. You say, "why no, this is brand new pain, thank you very much! Are you separating my spine, because it really feels like something in the back of my neck just got much taller!" (Or you say something along those lines, anyway. It's hard to remember verbatim after you've had needles shoved through your neck.)

10. DWSSB pulls the foot-long needles out of your spine. One at a time, of course.

11. DWSSB repeats steps 7 and 8 in a different disc. Assistant again asks you not to kick your leg while you have long sharp things in your neck. DWSSB asks you about pain level. At this time, you tell him that you would like to revise your previous estimate, because THIS set of needles is a 9. You briefly contemplate rating it a 10, but there always needs to be room for growth, right? DWSSB asks if this pain is in the same locations as your normal pain. Why, yes, it is, but holy Christ, man, do you really have to reproduce it by shoving needles into my SPINE?

12. DWSSB removes needles and tells you that you did a good job. Apparently "you did a good job" is DWSSB-speak for "thank you for not screaming like a banshee and scaring the shit out of the rest of my patients". DWSSB's assistant takes you into another room and gives you a CT scan while you still have glow-in-the-dark dye in your spine. You just lie there obsessing over not looking at the little laser that they use to line you up for the scan. God knows, we wouldn't want retinal scarring and blindness on top of our spine pump and neck skewering.

13. DWSSB's assistant makes you lie in a recovery area for an hour to make sure that you don't have a reaction to the dye. When he catches you sitting on the end of the table three minutes after he put you there and you tell him that their ceiling is boring, he makes you lie down again. When you keep pushing aside the privacy curtain because you're bored and want to see what they're doing out there, he pretends not to notice. After about 20 minutes of pained boredom, you go to the bathroom to pee and are lucky enough to run into DWSSB as you're coming out.DWSSB tells you that yes, indeedy, the disc that has been identified as the problem disc on the MRI is the same disc that the discogram identified. Of course, that "healthy" disc isn't really totally healthy since it hurt when he squirted a gallon of dye into it, but it's not the one causing your current crop of issues. You ask if you can go home now and he says that you can. You would jump for joy, but it feels like you have swords in your neck and now you have back, arm, hand and head pain to go along with it thanks to the disc being all pissed off now.

14. DWSSB's assistant is a bit miffed that you managed to get a hall pass without lying down for an hour first, but you don't care. Assistant gives you instructions that essentially tell you that you're going to suffer for another 24 hours, to drink lots of water to flush the dye out of your discs, and don't leave the house. Don't drive, either.

15. You leave and take the subway home, sulking all the way because even though you feel like somebody ran over your head and neck with a snowplow, all you have to show for it is two frigging band-aids on your neck. Band-aids. Band-fucking-aids. People probably think you're trying to cover some nasty zits. Oh, and now your hands are numb, so at least they don't hurt like everything else from the boobs up does.

It took me about two hours to type this because of my damned numb hands from the disc full of dye I now have. I'm gonna drink more fluids and scrounge up a Vicodin and maybe lie down for a bit. They say that the second day is often worse than the first day because on the first day you're all shot full of novacaine. Whoopee! Tomorrow should be a blast!

That was my day; how was yours?

P.S. I now have like a gazillion of you people in the bcc line because so many of you know I'm having surgery but don't know the details. That's why I'm forwarding the original mail below. With any luck, I remembered everybody this time.

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