Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Nose Job

Doctors brag about the weirdest things.
            "My sister had a nose job." Dr Tabubil said to another intern.
            "Oh yeah?"
            "OH yeah. She had her inferior turbinates removed."
            "Technically, that's not what -"
            "And she had her septum straightened. It was like this." She crooked her finger into a hairpin bend and held it up for him to stare at.  And sauntered off, hips swinging.

Last Monday was Valentines Day. Mr Tabubil was spared liver 'n 'onions this year - I went into hospital so that my sister could have bragging rights up on the Obs and Gobs floor.
It's all very organized. I arrived at the hospital at 6:30 in the morning, part of a stream of morning surgical slots - all of us with carefully composed faces and overnight bags.
             A volunteer with a smile and an outstretched hand. A waiting room and enough time to choose a magazine, then a meeting with the anesthetist in a closet, then another meeting behind a curtain with a nurse - medical history, ID tags and allergy flags, then a change room for surgical suit, dressing gown and blue paper booties to walk you from the change room to another box, where they are swapped for compression hose pulled tight up to your thighs.
             A pill to make you fly, because you hate the lonely, emptied-out feel of going under, then the walls are reeling, you're sliding between them, herky-jerk, hurdy-gurdy, stop, freeze-frame, a woman at your head, a man at your feet, the rumble of rubber wheels on the corridor floor vibrating up through your spine into the wide open spaces they shake loose all through the inside your head.
The man at your feet is wonderful. The walls slide by like snakes.
            "Do you know," you try "that you are handsome? The most handsome man I have ever seen?"
The rackety clatter of rubber wheels on linoleum booms loudly in your ears. The man is smiling over you.  He doesn't hear.
Another room, a swinging double door, and you're in a room where nurses smile warmly - at you, this time. They are not beautiful. You smile back.
            "Do you know your name?"
Of course I do. How fun, how silly, this is. A game. I know my name - it's written down on my wrist tag, of course!
            "Do you know that man there?"
It's the anesthetist. He smiles warmly. We all smile. It's jolly, it’s a game -
            "I can't quite remember right now, but he's a Very Kind Gentleman-"
The nurses laugh uproariously. "A very kind gentleman - hear that?"
He laughs.
I laugh.
            "I'm going to put something in now" he  giggles. A canula is slid into my arm, gently, so gently, like water sliding through silk -
            "You're going to feel it." He says. "Sparkles going up your arm."
            "I'm going to give you a little oxygen." Another nurse looms over me with a mask.
             Something is missing - wait - I look around, suddenly frantic. There he is, on the edge of the room, on a stool, by the wall. My surgeon is staring at a magazine. He looks down, drawn, disinterested - There's a pencil in his hand - is that a crossword? He doesn’t see me. He doesn't know me. I look at him, stare at him, desperate- willing him to look up at me, see me just once before he -
The mask comes down. The taste is bitter, acrid.
            "This isn't oxyg-" I say.

Blood. A nurse in the darkness.
            "I'm putting your pajamas on you now."
Go away. Comfortable down here.
More blood.
             The darkness clears, briefly. My mother is there, in a chair. There's a fat wad of gauze taped to my face under my nose. The world becomes clearer as the nurses come and go, taking blood pressures, changing the gauze, small, irritating intrusions designed to drag you out of the clouds, jolt by jolt.
             Ice packs and more blood. Mum sits in a chair, hemming a skirt, tucking a pin into the fabric of her shoulder ever time a nurse comes by to change the blood-soaked pad. Too many pins. Pain on nurses faces.

Mum climbs up onto the bed next to me and lies there, holding me tight around my shoulders and we float through the afternoon like that.
I'm copacetic.
I'm flying, tinted pink.

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