My Elbow Surgery, 1


My Elbow Surgery, 1 October 2001
a drama in multiple parts

Part the First
in which our heroine has to do everyone’s job for them, because they are incompetent

8:45 a.m.
I decided to call United Healthcare to doublecheck the authorization for my surgery – after last week when the lab faxed me my blood test results instead of the surgeon, I was taking no chances. I became, in the words of a friend, my own Surgery Project Manager.

Dr. Shaffer’s office hadn’t called the insurer. Maria at United Healthcare said the hospital just wouldn’t get paid without that authorization, it wasn’t something I’d get stuck with personally. Not willing to take that risk, I called Vernadine, Dr. Shaffer’s secretary. Made her call Maria directly and call me back to confirm. Why am I doing Vernadine’s job?

Then I went outside and dug a hole.

A hole? In lieu of flowers, Cathy is bringing over a rosebush. Thought I’d be ready for it when it arrived.

Christian got off my bed, where the dog was licking him to death, and we drove to University Hospital. I had him drop me off and went in to register. I’m wearing my Chicago Board of Trade sweatshirt and dark grey Old Navy fleece pants. The contents of my oversized Salomon Smith Barney beach bag: my new black Gap cami, Town & Country / Harper’s Bazaar magazines, black Gap Halloween boxers, fruit flavored water, a hot pink pashmina and my tiara. These will come in handy later.

Part the Second
in which our heroine has to deal with additional stupidity

I register. I sign all the paperwork, I list Christian as my next of kin, and I am dispatched to the lab. They try to weasel more blood out of me. I tell them rather patiently that I already had CBC, Chem-7, PT and PTT tests done last week. I feel like I’m on ER when I rattle off the list. “Where did you have them done?” she asks. “At your Green Road facility. They faxed me the results accidentally and I then faxed them to Vernadine in Dr. Shaffer’s office. Here’s her phone number – call her.”

They send me back to the waiting room while they discover that I am, of course, right. I hate giving blood and don’t feel like giving up any more than absolutely necessary. They send me to change.

Part the Third
in which our heroine gets to wear an adorable hospital gown

I run down my health history for 5 different people. I get an IV placed in my right hand just before I need to sign something. I get to model proper airway configuration for a med student. I find out the head anesthesiologist lives across from the most successful guy in my office (someone who grosses over a million dollars a year in commissions, so this should give you some clue as to what anesthesiologists rake in). They wheel me into the OR and put me out a little after noon. I don’t see Dr. Shaffer once. Sheesh, he could have had his assistant doing the whole thing for all I know.

Part the Fourth
in which our heroine has strange reactions to many drugs

2:40 p.m.
I wake up. Bang. Christian was right – I have no sense of time. All the pleasant nurses have disappeared in favor of a bitter old queen who is pure evil. He won’t let me have water, only ice chips. He tells me I’m going home after all. I am vaguely pissed off, and I demand a phone. Nicely. He objects at first, then gives in. I call Christian and ask him to call my assistant Dawn, who can access my work email and tell everyone not to bother coming to the hospital after all. The chief anesthesiologist comes over to tell me I woke up during surgery and gagged on my intubation tube. This is why my throat hurts. Fortunately, I don’t remember it, or I’d probably have nightmares for life. The combination of morphine and Demerol they have me on is making me cry at everything. You could have told me the sky was blue and I would
have bawled. The evil nurse takes the pinchy heart monitor off my finger and wheels me across the room. Soon, Christian walks in.

I have NEVER been so happy to see Christian in my life. So I cry. It’s the drugs again.

After a while, I ask Christian for the lip balm in my bag. He and the nurse go to find it. The nurse hits on him. Only in my world, I tell you. They take the IV out, Christian puts my cami on for me (I’m once again in a wrist-to-armpit cast) and helps me get up. “Do you want your tiara?” he asks. Yup. So I put it on, with my hot pink pashmina wrapped around my shoulders. The nurse is babbling something about my Vicodin prescription to me, but I’m tuning him out because he’s evil. They tell Christian where to meet us, and wheel me out in a wheelchair. Several doctors stop me to say how cool my tiara is. If it weren’t for the cast, they’d probably think I was a psych patient.

Part the Fifth
in which our heroine vomits in a parking lot

We go to the Walgreen’s drive-through to get my Vicodin. I am drinking some of my fruit-flavored water. I disconnect my seat belt and open the Kia’s door. Christian asks me what I am doing, but I am too busy vomiting onto the pavement, in a rather dignified way. I still have the tiara on.

Part the Sixth
in which my mommy spoon-feeds me wonton soup

Brilliant, wonderful boyfriend extraordinaire Christian opens up the sofabed and makes it up perfectly. He brings me water and some of the Grape Nuts granola bars I just made (ask me for the recipe – it’s yum). Mom & Dad bring me flowers, and GQ, and wonton soup. Fabulous. Christian has work to do, so he leaves around 8:00. I call Tamas and find out he was in a car accident that morning which totalled the passenger side of his car. Stacey calls – they’re transferring her to a nursing home – her jaw crumbled. More on that later.

All in all, an eventful day. Vicodin is my friend. I can feel my stitches under the cast, which is miserable, but as Christian said “no more Bob Dole hand”!

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