Monday, November 30, 2009

"Story of a Surgery - Part One"

You have to watch how you write it, ‘cause how you write it is how you remember it.

BACKSTORY

August 12, 2009 – I wake up suddenly with an acute shortness of breath. The symptoms disappear.

Until…

August 19, 2009 – I discover at bedtime that I can’t lie down, because when I do, I can’t breathe. If the earlier shortness of breath was acute, this one is acutely acute.

August 20, 2009 – I visit my doctor, who, after listening to my heart and doing a cardiogram, exposes a scary, worried face and accompanies me to a nearby Emergency Room.

I’m immediately admitted to the hospital, where I’m treated for what’s quickly diagnosed as “Congestive Heart Failure.” I’m not crazy about the label. It sounds like my heart took a test and it failed. Plus, since it’s my heart and not “Geography”, a failing grade carries serious consequences, one of which is “Goodbye.”

August 24, 2009 – I am released from the hospital after two things happened: One, they drained the fluid from my lungs – which was the reason I couldn’t breathe when I tried to lie down – and two, they discovered the cause of the problem: some tendons (or something) attached to my mitral heart valve had (probably on August the 12th) become detached. (The detachment also allowed blood that the valve is supposed to keep out to, as the doctors call it, regurgitate back into my heart. Not a good thing, but not imminently life threatening. That’s why they allowed me to go home.

The hospital had taken care of the immediate problem. But they hadn’t fixed the reason the problem had occurred. To fix that would require

Surgery.

Ahhhhhhhhgh!

For the next few weeks, Dr. M and I interviewed three potential cardiac surgeons – not that they had potential to become cardiac surgeons, they already were cardiac surgeons – but that each of them could potentially have been chosen to perform my surgery. Two of the surgeons practiced the traditional method of heart surgery – cracking the breastbone and going in frontally. The third surgeon specialized in a robotic technique. The first two doctors insisted that the robotic technique was garbage. The robot-using surgeon claimed the other two were old-fashioned fuddy-duddies, unwilling to change. Such are the manners in the cardiac surgical fraternity.

We decide on the robot guy. He schedules my surgery for October 27, 2009.

END OF BACKSTORY

OCTOBER 27, 2009.

We wake up at 4:15. (Our scheduled “check-in” time is 5:30.) The night before, I had showered, as instructed, with some special, antiseptic soap. I felt like a Thanksgiving turkey, whose preparation required being buttered prior to being inserted into the oven. The difference was, I was buttering myself.

We drive to the hospital in the dark. Considering the pre-dawn scheduling of my surgery, the word “clandestine” jumps to mind. “Done in secrecy.” It feels like this is deliberate, so in case something unfortunate happens, there won’t be any witnesses.

“Did you see him come in?”

Nobody saw him come in.”

“Is there any proof he was ever here?”

“None whatsoever.”

“Then we certainly couldn’t have killed the man.”

“What man?”

“Precisely. You can’t kill a man who wasn’t here.”

“It doesn’t make sense.”

“Then I’d say we’re off the hook.”

“Absolutely.”

“You know what? Just to be sure…”

“Yes?”

“Next time, let’s schedule them earlier.”

“Who?”

“Oh. Right. I tripped myself up there.”


END OF PARANOID FANTASY

The side of the hospital building features a large Jewish Star. But there’s a man nailed to it. I guess they didn’t want to leave anybody out. (Please excuse the nervous comedy of questionable taste. Keep in mind that they would shortly be opening me up.)

We park the car, and I unload my Pendleton overnight bag containing the essentials for my hospital stay, (which I determined from my earlier hospital stay). I’m scared, but also excited, my precise feelings embodied in a song, published in a previous post.

(TO THE TUNE OF “TEDDY BEAR’S PICNIC”)

WHEN I GO INTO THE HOSPITAL

THEY’RE GOING TO GO THROUGH MY SIDE

THEY SAY IT’S LESS PAINFUL THAN CRACKING MY CHEST

BUT WHAT DO I DO IF THEY LIED?

THEY’LL STILL MY LUNGS

AND QUIET MY HEART

AND WHEN THEY’RE DONE

THEY HOPE THEY RESTART

TODAY’S THE DAY THE ROBOTS GO IN MY BO-DY.


We head into the hospital.

As they once said on WKRP In Cincinnati – and it really made me laugh –

It’s “Rumba Time.”

22 comments:

YEKIMI said...

Welcome back! I'm glad you're ok. My boss should have had the robotic surgery stuff, he collapsed in June, had open heart surgery and is STILL recuperating and was just able to go back to work for a couple of days each week for just a short time. It helps that he owns the business, he's probably just using the heart surgery as an excuse to slack off.

JED said...

It's so good to hear from you directly, Earl. Not that I didn't like the "Best of Earl". But, the "Best of Earl" is right now. I pray that your recover continues to go well. I look forward to the rest of "Story of a Surgery" and the long, long continuation of "Just Thinking..."

Sérgio said...

I'm happy to see you back in action!
Cheers!

Ian said...

Welcome back, Earl! Good to have you back.

emily said...

Oh Earl, it is so wonderful to see the NEW IMPROVED YOU back at your keyboard, where you belong. I look forward to reading more of your fascinating stories well into the future.

Stay well!

A. Buck Short said...

Earl’s back?

Does this mean we’ll be subject to another surgical screening marathon?
Can robots go in from the other side too?
We’ll be back with the answers to these and other questions, right after this short message:

http://216.122.130.113/video/richardson2009.html

END OF BACKSTORY next week, in the exciting conclusion of: “As the Earl Turns.”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/40/As_the_World_Turns_1973_Theme.ogg

True story from a Boston hospital in the early 70s.
Like a cliché, but... enormously obese gentleman is wheeled into OR for gall bladder removal.
Surgeons begin cutting and clamping.
Cut….clamp…
Cut…clamp
Cut…cut…cut…clamp…clamp…clamp.
A half hour passes. Still no gall bladder.
Cut and clamp some more.
Finally a small white mass appears amid all the flesh and hardware.
It is a bed sheet.
With all of the cutting and clamping, the gentleman’s own mass had apparently shifted during the procedure and the surgeons had cut right through to the operating table, completely bypassing the gall bladder.
Cut.
Run.
Patient awakens. Surgical scars and stitches both front and back, with no explanation ever provided.
Another great argument for robotics. Welcome back.
.

rms said...

Welcome back! Great to have you back tickling our own funny bones again!

A. Buck Short said...

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES?

OK, I hate when that happens. If the above offered links failed to assume their locked and upright position, you might try to cut and paste these. If this doesn't work either, Let's go for a second opinion...or just pull the plug.


http://216.122.130.113/video/richardson
2009.html


http://upload.wikimedia.org/
wikipedia/en/4/40/As_the_World_Turns_
1973_Theme.ogg

.

growingupartists said...

Oh the excitement you bring to such a relatable and important life passage...and, you brought the Pendleton. Good thinking!!!

Welcome back.

Disciple said...

Hooray! Welcome back. Glad things went well!

MikeThe Blogger said...

TO A. BUCK SHORT If you want to put a URL link in a comment here is the best way to do it. Write the URL in HTML tags like this...Say, a link to the Toronto Star Newspaper
[a href="http://www.thestar.com"] Toronto Star [/a]

But the square brackets have to be replaced with these pointed brackets.. < >

Also if the URL is a really long one - go to tinyurl.com to get a short version of it.

==============
AND EARLglad to hear you are better. Welcome back, glad to hear things went well for you.

MikeThe Blogger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Welcome back, Earl!

diane said...

Oh, it is so good to have you making me laugh again. It's the part about the Jewish star that has me in tears. I had to explain myself to the fellow in the cubicle next to me. Now he's laughing and as I walk away, still chuckling. I hope you are feeling better and better each day. It's great to have you writing again.

Greg Morrow said...

How do we know that this is the real Earl and that he hasn't been replaced with some sort of robot Terminator-Earl? If there's anything a lifetime of SF has taught us, it's not to trust robots.

Max Clarke said...

Given the seriousness of the event, I wondered how long it would take for you to make me laugh. The answer came fast with the lines:

“Then we certainly couldn’t have killed the man.”

“What man?”

“Precisely. You can’t kill a man who wasn’t here.”

Welcome back, Earl.

45 is the new 30 said...

YAY!! Welcome back, and mazel tov on the success of your surgery! I hope your recovery continues to go smoothly, and that you're headed toward a healthy, happy future. Looking forward to many, many more years of reading your posts. You've been missed!

KEN LEVINE said...

What some people won't do just to have something to write about in their blog.

Welcome back,my friend. The blogosphere just got a lot funnier.

Brian Scully said...

Wow, Earl, very interesting... I can only hope that upcoming stories about your hospitalization feature other exotic pieces of luggage. Welcome back and thanks for the laughs.

Corinne said...

I want to add my thrilled delight that you have recovered so well and are back.

[Would it look wrong for an "almost" middle aged woman to jump up and down while squealing and clapping my hands? I'd never do it for anyone else but you :o)

Tom K Mason said...

"The side of the hospital building features a large Jewish Star. But there’s a man nailed to it."

Missed you. Welcome back!

wv: Phoritc - a fear of Vietnamese food.

Joe said...

Good to have you back in fine fettle.

And don't think I didn't notice the product placement in this entry.