Of stress tests and alien DNA – or how I spent my spine operation

Even in the fabled words of Inigo Montoya… there is too much.  I can neither ‘splain,dm
nor sum up.   As usual, I’m certainly not normal, and the fictional character I now have the most in common with is Dr. Manhattan.

It started with “chance of flurries” predicted for the morning of surgery.  Which manifested into, well, not exactly a blizzard, but one hell of a lot more than “flurries”.  Several inches certainly of the nasty white stuff with traffic at a stand still and me in a dead panic.   Somehow by the grace of God the surgery had been scheduled when there was no other conflict with anything.  And with the pain quickly growing from “bad” to “unbearable” to “kill me now” to “no, seriously, now” the only thing I could think of was calling for an ambulance and somehow doing pre-op in the back of the truck.

clock Fortunately that wasn’t necessary.  Not only did my father deliver me across town in a snow storm in rush hour ON TIME, but the surgery was delayed.  First by one hour, then by two, then by several.  I was scheduled to check in at 9am and be in OR by 11.   I’m not sure what led to the delay, but I was actually wheeled back into the room at 4:30 pm.

Several cool points of interest here.  They let me get onto the table by myself.  None of this “I am the walrus” heaving of flesh which does terrible things to the dignity at a time when it’s least needed.  Also, each member of the team introduced themselves while I was still awake enough to be gracious about it – again a very nice touch.  If they’re mucking in my spine these are people I want to be polite to.  My surgeon gives rise to phrases such as “liquid pools of obsidian” – she has lovely eyes with absolutely no pupils.  She’s a tiny little Puerto Rican 10 years younger than myself whom I have a serious intellectual crush on.

ab Then I pass out.  When I faint it’s usually one of two ways, either the world goes away in tunnel vision, or there’s the sound of a billion bees before I hit the ground.  Usually it’s the bee feeling I feel when the anesthesiologist is finished with me.  And that’s as sick as a human can feel and live through it.  It’s not pain, its a sick that attacks to the point of making one regret the very idea of life.  When they’re calling you out from the drugs, all you want to do is crawl back in.  This time?  When I woke up it was like waking from a nap on a May morning.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was about 7:30 or so and I felt FANTASTIC!  It was so… weird.  I hardly knew what to do with myself!  I was talking and things and stuff.  All good.  And I got wheeled into a private room.  Oh folks, I hit the home run of health care.  Which is why the next part is so weird.

Whatever happened at 2:30 in the morning no one can figure out.  Not me, my MedicalEmergencysurgeon or an entire hospital full of doctors.   What I know is that I suddenly couldn’t breathe.  I was being compressed between a vice and there was a hot rock in the center of my rib cage.  Cardiac?  Anxiety?  Who knows?  I still hadn’t eaten anything, so for all I knew it was acid.  But suddenly I had EVERYONE’S attention and they were moving fast.  My private room melted behind me to a fast trip to cardiac and that’s where the fun began.

Last week I had 3 chest X-rays, 4 spine X-rays, a mammogram, and a CAT scan.  Suddenly I’m back in radiology for 2 more CAT scans, 2 ultra sounds and a stress test with radioactive isotopes.  Really?  From an acid reflux something or other?  Oh, but it gets better.

See, I had to fast before the surgery, which had been delayed for hours.  So the last time I ate was at 10 pm on Monday night.  We’re heading into Wednesday afternoon and I still haven’t had so much as a saltine.  And what do we do before a stress test?  We FAST!  Which triggers what?  Acid reflux.  Talk about a set up!


I’m so freaked out by this point that I’m nearly gibbering.  And I’ve been hearing all day how sick a chemical stress test makes you feel, which I figure is my karmic payment for how good I felt waking up from the anesthesiologist.  It’s going to open all my valves and give me the world’s worst headache, which was just what I had surgery to avoid.  It’s going to be the world’s worst hot flash.  It’s… who knows?

doctor chemical The stress test is in three parts.  They take pictures of your heart “normal”, then introduce the chemicals, then more pictures.  So after the first set the nurse wheeled me back to where they’d give me the IV for the chemicals.  Except normally she’s not in transport.  She just felt sorry for me.  So she’s managing my charts, my IV, and my wheelchair, and she suddenly drops my charts onto my head.  Which I think is funny as hell.  Now, all she did is say sorry for bonking me and vanished.  It wasn’t until later that someone said “Where did that blood come from?” that I realized that she actually cut my head open!  Now that was bad enough, but this was even better.

So there I was, laying on the table about to be injected with chemicals guaranteed to alien-chest-burstermanifest Sigorney Weaver’s Alien straight out of my chest, I’m pretty sure, blood pooling in my hair, totally freaked out, when suddenly (no, seriously) the fire alarms go off.  We’re talking Awoogas, with the blinking lights and the official response over the intercom and WHOOSH go the chemicals into my veins and I’m laughing so hard that I’m pretty sure I shot alien DNA all over the wall from my nose.

So that’s how I spent my Wednesday.  I finally got dinner around 6:30, they never did find out what was wrong and because I got transferred from neurosurgery to cardio it took them about 9 hours to figure out how to discharge me today.  But that’s another story, I’m home now, and I’m very very glad to report that on top of a temporarily repaired spine, I also can confirm I have an incredibly healthy heart.  And I may be possessed with Alien DNA.  We’re still not sure.


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