I was scheduled for eye surgery at 8 am on Thursday, March 16, 2006, at the Bellingham Surgery Center. I was to be there at 0700 and Nancy delivered me at 0655. I signed in and was prepped almost immediately, which consisted of questions about jewelry, perfume, last meal, last liquid, medication, caffeine, cigarettes. Blood pressure taken. Then I was given 3 types of eye drops three different times, taken into a cubicle, laid on a gurney, covered with a warm blanket. A blood pressure band was placed on my right arm above the elbow over my sweater for automatic reading at preset intervals during and after the operation. I removed my left arm from my sweater and a needle was installed in the back of my hand as a connection for the anesthesiologist to administer whatever I would need to keep me relaxed for the surgery. Another needle inserted and connected to an IV of electrolites was continuously injected into my system during my rest, during and after the operation. If the contents of the IV bag was not used, the remainder was held for a pickup monthly by a woman who rehabilitates raptors. Three patches were put on my body to be connected to an EKG for monitoring during the procedure. That occurred in the operating room.
I was to steadily focus my right eye on the light above me during the procedure, which I did admirably, under a blindfold I had nowhere else to look. I could see the shadow of hands or instruments working on my eye, feel the pokes of whatever into the eyeball the entire time. Doctor Kim previously explained that two small incisions would be made on the perimeter of the gel sac in which the lense resides. With a laser (the cataract lense, my tissue) would be broken up and vacuumed out. Then a clear acrylic tissue would be installed, partially folded, that would unfold after installation, similar to the unfolding of an insect wing when emerging from a chrysalis. Pretty neat, huh? Wax was called for. Was that to be used to seal the incisions. (Later I was told the incisions would heal by themselves.) No tape, punch pins, paper clips or needlework there, thank you!
Nancy, Jerry and I had earlier discussed the length of the time needed for the procedure because Ryanne must be picked up from school before noon. We surmised that with surgery scheduled for 0800 hours, I could be brought home before her pickup. However in the event that I would be detained at the surgery center, plan B had Jerry bring me back leaving Nancy free to get to the school on time. She was required for the task because her car has the booster seats for Ryanne and friend who lives next door.
The 0800 surgery did not occur. The operating room had been used to repair some results of an accident to a teen ager earlier, expecting the room to be cleared in ample time for my residence. Repairs took longer than expected, some unforeseen complication that could not be interrupted for removal of a simple cataract. The point being that I was to lay on my gurney under warm blankets for at least another half hour.
Now I come to the fun part. I was comfortable and relaxed and curious. What does the doctor do with that loose half hour? Too little time to run back home give the kids breakfast, or send them off to the school bus. Did he frantically make the phone calls to complete the errands he neglected yesterday? Did he lay back on a cot and get a few minutes rest to make up for what he lost last night? Did he ???
What good character development for a scene for a future novel. And that was not all. The nurses during my procedure talked of critters in their walls, mice or what, one nurse knew not. Critters under the houses were more well known and skunks were the worst offenders that provoked the best stories from the nurses. Skunks make good pets, said one. But the stink gland must be removed, reminded another. The doctor was too intent on implanting my acrylic lens, which would earn his fee and salaries for the helpers, to offer any insight into critters in or out of walls.
In the waiting room where I lay cozy and relaxed, I could hear the nurses giggling (one’s giggle was enough to make me giggle also) and carrying on conversations that included personal habits and working jargon when two people crossed paths, not only nurses, but aids and even the administrator who came by to climb a ladder and correct some minor defect on the curtain surround across the aisle. By voice tones I could hear normal courtesy and once an undertow of professional animosity — as if in criticism of a method or action. Great atmosphere for character studies in fiction.
Even in the waiting room before my involvement, I found characters of note. Two women came in together for an appointment. The difference in height was notable carrying with it the assumption of a friend accompanied the other (college students came to mind) for some consultation on their health. I was disabused of that very soon when the older shorter one was taken to the cubicle next to me obviously for medical attention. I made a casual note wondering if she too was to have cataract surgery. Whatever – the surgery center handled an entire gamut of out-patient surgeries. But close behind the older woman came the younger taller one with a profile so duplicated from the older that she must be the daughter. Such a difference in height made me think of genes and heredity. More food for character study.
All brainwork was better put to use for future novels than twiddling my thumbs which were tucked securely inside the welcome warmth of a heated blanket.