“The ‘Sister’ will sign you in.”
These were the first words I heard in the dimly lit Reception Area of the hospital where we’d had come for our Surgeon Search kick-off consultation with “Surgeon Number One.” (“Surgeon Search – Chapter One”: September 15, 2009.)
I then proceeded to a nearby desk, where a seventyish nun lady with a calming spirit and heavenly penmanship signed me in, and directed me to the surgeon’s office.
That was my introduction to “Hospital Number One”, out of which “Surgeon Number One” would operate, and where my, hopefully, not too many days of “after care” would be provided.
Introducing “Hospital Number Two” (out of which “Surgeon Number Two” would operate):
A large, semi-circular arrival area worthy of an Oscar-night drop-off.
A three-floor high – at least – lobby, built of marble, tile and enormous glass windows, a check-in area worthy of a Four Seasons hotel anywhere in the world, (including those really wealthy Arab countries). Though, itself, hardly understated, this introduction to the hospital resonated with a subliminal message:
“The fact that they are sick people in this building will neither be confirmed nor denied by this truly opulent lobby.”
A lobby of this luxuriosity can engender one of two impressions:
One: “This is a First Class facility.”
Or Two: “What does a Vegas-style lobby have to do with fixing my heart?”
We decide to reserve our judgment.
Our written instructions direct us to a “Consultation Room”, where we are to pick up the “house phone” and dial a certain extension, to announce our arrival. We imagined being collected from there, and escorted to “Surgeon Number Two’s” office where the consultation would be conducted.
The “Consultation Room” is a small, kind of a waiting room arrangement, containing maybe half a dozen fake leather chairs. It isn’t private. There’s another guy in there waiting to see a different surgeon.
We look for the “house phone” to dial the extension. There is no phone in the room.
After fifteen minutes, “Surgeon Number Two’s” non-medical assistant appears, and explains that the reason there is no phone in the “Consultation Room” is that somebody has run off with it. (They apparently also absconded with a couple of the fake leather chairs.) However, now that it’s been visually confirmed that we have arrived, things should be moving along briskly.
Twenty-five minutes later, “Surgeon Number Two’s” Nurse Practitioner arrives – sharp (in the “on top of things” sense), funny and efficient. She asks a bunch of questions, which I answer, and then she leaves, taking with her two disks I had brought, containing some heart test results, so that “Surgeon Number Two” can study them before our consultation. I like the Nurse Practitioner so much, I kind of wish she were in the running in our Surgeon Search. But she isn’t. Something about not being a doctor.
An hour later, the non-medical assistant reappears. We get up. It is time to meet “The Big Guy” in his office.
Well, not exactly.
The non-medical assistant escorts us out of the “Consultation Room”, two doors down the hall to another “Consultation Room.” This one is a little smaller – only three chairs. I do not check to see if it has a phone. We actually never see “Surgeon Number Two’s” office. We are not even sure he has one. For all we know, he just wanders the halls, waiting to be paged.
Finally, ninety-five minutes after our arrival at the hospital, “Surgeon Number Two” materializes in the second “Consultation Room.” We are already aware that “Surgeon Number Two” is “Big in the Business.” During our first consultation, “Surgeon Number One” had volunteered, “He was my teacher.”
“Surgeon Number Two” shook our hands and spoke with an accent associated with a former member of the British Empire, but not Canada. He had black hair and dark, penetrating eyes, bringing to mind the, I think, English actor, Roger Rees. Though a sly sense of humor quickly surfaced, one could easily imagine “Surgeon Number Two” as an evil genius arch-villain, intoning, in a deceptively buttery voice,
“Not so fast, Mr. Bond.”
If the man had not written the book on heart valve repair – and he may well have – “Surgeon Number Two” had unquestionably read it cover to cover. And had memorized every word.
When he was nine.
I like asking a lot of questions, as soon as they come to me. “Surgeon Number Two” likes to say “Let me finish.” Feeling uncomfortable about interrupting people who may shortly have their hands around my heart, I immediately back off.
The problem was that by the time “Surgeon Number Two” finished talking – ten minutes after he had started – I had amassed so many questions along the way, I was unable to remember any of them. Which may – or may not – have been his plan.
In either case, the result of his extended discourse left me relatively speechless, beyond the generic “How much will it hurt?” and “When will I be better?”, which is just me, being terrified in question form.
A lot of times, when knowledgeable people are lecturing on their areas of expertise – such as during my Extension classes at UCLA – I don’t always understand all the words, but I generally get the music, meaning, the overall sense of what they’re saying.
“Surgeon Number Two’s” tune, exquisitely rendered, told me this:
“I am a gifted and respected practitioner, immensely prepared for what’s likely to occur during your surgery. And if the unlikely occurs, you could not be more capable hands. I have explored the advanced techniques (Read: robotic surgery), and I’m convinced without a doubt – something I haven’t had since 1978, and it lasted less than a second – that the conventional approach to your surgery remains the surest and the safest approach.”
Coloring the effect, “Surgeon Number Two” delivered this anxiety-allaying melody wearing clownishly-large, black New Balance sneakers, over which were a visible pair of leg weights, so he could, he explained, exercise while walking the halls of the hospital, since he was unable to get to a gym.
And that was it.
Except for a finishing tooting of his own horn over his trademark concern for maintaining blood flow to the brain throughout the operation. (And who doesn’t want that?)
Summarizing the “Surgeon Number Two” Experience:
The doctor was aces.
But the sterile (and not in a good way) facility left you wishing there was a “Sister” around to sign you in.
Okay, I can't say for a certainty, but I think I did my first hyperlink. If I did, the credit goes to my daughter Anna for teaching me. If I messed up, I take full responsibility for thinking I got it, when I didn't. I hope I got it. I like to learn at least one new thing every twenty years. (The last one was the toaster oven.)