My body: the unknown quantity

I’m having surgery tomorrow.
I’m having surgery tomorrow.
I’m having surgery tomorrow.

A quiet chant inside my head.
A persistent drumbeat.
Like the throbbing of an open wound.

People keep telling me not to worry. “It’s such a good hospital,” they gush.
“They’ll really take care of you there”.

I’m glad for their confidence in the hospital, for their praise and recommendations of the care they’ve received there. I’ve had dodgy surgeons and nurses before, resulting in frightening, painful, demeaning experiences.

But they don’t understand. I’m not anxious about the hospital, or the care I’ll receive there. I’m not worried about the surgeon, or the nurses. It’s my body that’s the unknown quantity in this situation; my unpredictable, uncooperative, broken shell.

Unknown quantity: a person or thing whose action, effect, etc, is unknown or unpredictable.

Something unexpected always happens. Something always goes wrong. There’s always some complication, some unpleasant surprise. I’ve had many procedures and surgeries, and never once have I been discharged from hospital thinking, “Well that all went according to plan”.

Exhibit A: I woke up from the anaesthetic for my first laparoscopy to a doctor telling me they’d had to stop because I’d nearly bled out on the table – and they had no idea why.

Exhibit B: I woke up from a later, keyhole surgery laparoscopy to the surgeon telling me that although we had been 100% sure I had endometriosis – everything had looked fine. Which meant he could offer no explanation or help for the excruciating pain. (We now suspect adenomyosis, which can’t be seen in a laparoscopy).

Exhibit C: In an exploratory heart surgery, I was woken up on the operating table.  My surgeon explained that he couldn’t find the hole in my heart that previous tests had shown. He had me hold my breath to open different valves in my heart while he poked around in there with thin wires (yes – I could feel it. It didn’t hurt, but it felt awful). They never did find that hole.

Exhibit D: During my first pacemaker surgery, they discovered that my heart doesn’t face the front – it’s twisted slightly to one side. It complicated the pacemaker placement. Then, the medication they prescribed for pain relief didn’t work – I spent a week in agonizing 9/10 pain.

Can you see the pattern?
“You’re having surgery tomorrow,” my brain chants.
“And your body is an unknown quantity,” my heart whispers back.

xx S.


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