I arrived to the care of anesthiology after four days of waiting, imaging and fact-finding. Another hour of waiting and the tempo suddenly shifted. A gurney ride ended in a cluttered room with four attendants and machines all around. All four people went to work on different areas of my body, inserting catheters and attaching electrodes. A soothing woman gave me an oxygen mask, with cool odorless air. She rubbed my chest and shoulders while speaking in a hypnotic voice, “Breathe deeply, Breathe.” I felt no trace of fear as another said, “I am giving you anesthetic now,” and the effect was immediate.
Suddenly, I awakened in a different room. A handsome man with a well-groomed beard said, “Your surgery is complete and it went well. Can you tell me your name? Do you know where you are? Do you know why you are here?” Apparently I answered to his satisfaction as he responded, “We are now transporting you to ICU.”
I was thinking, this is so surreal. Hours have passed while I missed the entire procedure: clipping hair, incising skin, sawing bone, slicing through dura, locating the tumor, probing its boundaries and separating it from surrounding brain structures, closing the wound and fastening with titanium hardware and dissolving sutures.
In the ICU, a headache and feeling of pressure in my head overtook all reflective observation. An angel of mercy asked, “Are you willing to take dilaudid? It will help with the pain in about 45 seconds.”
“Yes, oh yes” I said as the compound was infused in my vein and the pressure in my head abated.
The next morning, a group of doctors gathered with the chief surgeon in my room. I recognized Jacob from the emergency room, and Eric the night resident. The chief surgeon, Dr. Dogan, gave a crisp upbeat report. “Your surgery went very well and your post-operative MRI images look very good. It looks as though we removed the entire tumor and we will know more after we see reports from the pathology lab.” The assistant surgeon, Priscilla Pang, stayed to help us understand more about the surgery and the effects of incising jaw muscles near my ear on the right side of my face. In short, it hurts when I chew, and it will get better soon.
Writing two days afterward, my pain is manageable with Tylenol, I’m up and walking with someone by my side, and everyone says I’m doing great. I wonder about the slight tremor in my left hand, tendency to fall asleep often without warning, difficulties with typing. I am hopeful that these signs will pass too.