My eyes open. To my utter consternation, I am no longer lying on my back on a narrow hard operating table, struggling to force my eyes to stay focused on the ceiling tiles that are growing increasingly fuzzy.
A nurse I have not met is standing beside my bed. We are chatting. I do not remember anything much about our conversation, except that I am amazingly funny and tremendously entertaining. The nurse may not corroborate my version of events at this point, but it is my story and I am sticking to it.
As I begin to talk in a slightly less drug induced slur, I become aware that, in fact I am no longer in the operating room. I have been moved to recovery. Presumably my procedure has been concluded and I will soon be headed home to recuperate under the gentle attention of my loving “care giver”.
But, before I can return from recovery to Surgical Day Care, I must convince the nurse in charge that I am past the danger of vomiting, that my blood pressure is normal, and I am not suffering excruciating pain. She checks with me regularly asking, “How are you feeling?”
How am I feeling lying in a room full of patients in various stages of emerging from the fog of anesthetic?
It may still be the residual afterglow of my own journey into the ether world of drugged oblivion, but, as I reflect on how I really feel, there is one description that keeps rising to the surface of my mind.
I feel enormously grateful.
I am of course overwhelmed with gratitude for the faithful love and care I have received on an on-going basis over the past seven weeks from those who have journeyed with me through this ordeal with my knee. I am so mindful of how much sympathy patients routinely receive in any medical challenge and how overlooked are those who pick up the burden of fulfilling the role of care giver.
But, my gratitude lying in the recovery room, extends far beyond the familiar faces of those who have been looking after me for the past two months. It includes a parade of nameless angels most of whom I will never see again and who will never know how grateful I am for their momentary role in my life.
The list of kindness received begins as my wife and I walk into the hospital to the patient admitting desk. The admitting clerk chuckles warmly when I limp to the counter and announce, “I am here to register for the tennis tournament.”
It is hard to remember all the other figures who feature in this parade of generosity. They all introduced themselves by name, but of course I have forgotten them all. I do not know the proper names for their functions. But my list of angels along the way includes:
- the ward clerk who patiently answers our questions and explains to my wife how she will be informed when to pick me up
- the first of many nurses I will encounter who brings me my hospital gown and shows me how to tie it in the back
- the EKG technician who places stickers all over my body and is charmingly gentle and apologetic when it comes time to rip them off my skin
- the blood technician who takes my blood and stands chatting with me about the vegan diet my wife and I follow
- a second nurse, this one accompanied by a lovely young woman who introduces herself as a student nurse and stands smiling as I am equipped with an IV
- the nurse who gently shaves my knee with a tiny electric razor
- the porter who wheels my bed up to the third floor operating room and discusses with me the joy of her fifteen month old grand-daughter who has just moved to Egypt with her parents
- the in-take-nurse in the operating room who checks my vitals and assures me the surgeon will be along soon to speak with me
- the anesthetist who visits beside my stretcher, explains to me everything he will be doing and stands patiently answering my slightly inane questions
- the surgeon who stops by before I am taken into the operating room,writes on my leg, looks me in the eye and addresses me as if I were a real live person and not just a piece of meat into which he is about to cut
- the three nurses in the operating theater who, along with the surgeon, and the anesthetist provide a relaxed environment that feels safe and respectful for the last minutes before I sink into unconsciousness
- the different porter who wheels me from the operating room into recovery (I do not actually know that this person exists, but assume he/she must have been part of this process, since I awake in a different part of the hospital)
- the nurse who responded with grace and patience to my drug-induced witticisms until it was time for me to return to surgical daycare
- the porter who wheeled me back to surgical daycare
- the new nurse in surgical daycare who brought me water and a warm blanket to warm my feet
- the final nurse who gave me instructions for discharge and ordered me into a wheelchair for my trip to the car
I remember at least eighteen people I encountered in the space of slightly less than five hours from my arrival at the hospital to my discharge. I can only begin to imagine the huge cast of characters behind the scenes who had a part in making this minor operation run so smoothly.
I feel overwhelmed by the forces that came together all focused entirely upon my well-being. I am filled with gratitude for the care and attention I experienced in my short hospital visit.
I am aware how easy it is to over look those endless nameless faces in life who help make our lives work on a daily basis. Perhaps one of the blessings of a wounded knee is awakening to the host of usually unnoticed angels who fill our lives.
nb: this post was mostly written before the call from the surgeon informing me that my “pathology is different than we had expected.” But, my gratitude is no less profound in the face of the twist in the road my knee journey has now taken. (see tomorrow’s “A Different Pathology”)