Adventures In Surgery I

Kage Baker had her tonsils removed on the same day and in the same hospital where I was having my gall bladder removed. I was thinking about that as I went under anesthesia last Monday … The double bill was an accident – her tonsils had been slated for the chop for months, and we had her post-surgical recovery all planned out. Then my gall bladder went south unexpectedly, and we ended up simultaneously disabled.

She told me later she remembered waking up in recovery to hear the nurses talking about this perfectly dreadful surgery that had gone wrong next door, where some lady’s gall bladder pulled all sorts of tricks, leaped out of her belly and chased the surgical team around,  and then the lady coded … and Kage thought to herself, “I bet that’s Kathleen.”

She was right, too. (Though I deny my gall bladder attacked the surgeon.) And I don’t think Kage was even surprised. I am incapable of doing these things normally or quietly. Though at least my heart didn’t stop this time – and that is quite an accomplishment, considering the battered condition of my heart these days. But I pulled through with no especial personal difficulties; although the same could not be said of my surgeon. I was apparently something of a challenge.

I had, at least, warned her that my abdomen was a mess of scars. I’ve had several prior surgeries, and I scar like organic gaffer’s tape. Sure enough, little Dr. Rimel couldn’t find my lymph nodes for the scar tissue accreted like flowstone on the walls of my abdominal cavity. Nor could she find my right ureter, likewise buried in scars; she found the kidney it’s attached to, but (according to Kimberly) it rather resembled a fat pumpkin these days rather than the classic kidney bean shape. She was interested in the kidney because my last urine sample, just before surgery, looked a little funny …

Still, she found all the really pertinent organs and evicted their traitorous asses with no problem. And everything looked good – no lurking alien bases, no unexpected new tumours, no wildly inflated organs. We’re still waiting for the last pathology reports, but so far- it looks good. It looks clean. I appear to have won!

Of course, there was the issue of all that obscuring scar tissue. So they sent me off for post-surgical MRIs and X-rays; wherein it was discovered that my ureter and lymph nodes really are there, just covered in scar tissue. And they work! Even my fat ugly lumpy kidney works, to everyone’s astonishment – it wasn’t supposed to still be functional after a lifetime of trying to fail, but it does!

However, the suspicious urine sample turned out to be due to a crypto-infection from a weird bug not normally seen in bladders (Naturally. This is me.) and which can only be cured by an intravenous antibiotic: Vancomycin, which sounds like a cheap Balkan politico. And so before they stapled me shut they installed a central line IV. In my jugular.

It’s never a relaxing sign, waking up from surgery to find your doctor has sewn equipment into your neck. You start worrying about the Borg, and stuff. Especially since, when I came to in recovery, I was convinced that my head was encased in a glass box. In fact, in – an aquarium!

Cedars-Sinai was trying to assimilate me.

I could see the metal frame, and the little ports for air hoses and plastic divers and submarines and such; I could peer out the front glass panel, but I couldn’t make anyone hear me. It was very disturbing. I tried calling for help, and Kimberly was right there making soothing sounds – but I couldn’t seem to make her realize I wanted out of the damned aquarium. Luckily, I slipped away again pretty quickly.

This was, of course, because I did not have an aquarium welded to my head. I woke up wearing a perfectly ordinary oxygen mask. It only covered my nose and mouth, and Kimberly said she could see my lips move perfectly clearly. Unfortunately, what she could see my lips doing was yelling, “Help!” Poor girl … she assumed I needed more painkillers (I did) and she agitated until they gave me more meds and I slipped peacefully away.

Always bring a fierce relative to recovery with you. Even if you’re off your head, they will know what is best for you.

The aquarium was gone when I woke up in my room, which was an enormous relief. However, I had a port in my neck – a hydra-head of lumens, all jingling next to my ear and ready for IV lines and blood draws … it was inordinately grotesque. My assistant surgeon had somehow though it would be more convenient than a port in my arm. Kage had a Pik line in her arm: I’d found it very easy to work with. The thing on my neck was not, in my opinion, an improvement … but, you know, once they start sewing the appliances to you, it’s pretty much a  done deal for a while.

I would ultimately wear the port for a week, in order to successfully defeat the cryptid enterovirus. It was like having a corn-rowed octopus glued under my ear. It rattled.

But I had successfully gotten through surgery, and the outlook was good! Kimberly was on guard beside me, and I was safely awake and had a lovely morphine pump to play with. All was well.

More adventures tomorrow, Dear Readers: why cardiologists are dangerous. Also, flocks of faeries round my bed.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Adventures In Surgery I

  1. Tom says:

    “… but, you know, once they start sewing the appliances to you, it’s pretty much a done deal for a while.”

    Jonathan Hardy drew the line after the quacks installed a blender in him so they could make their 5 p.m. daiquiries. But that was in Australia, where they have different rules and are upside down.

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  2. Ahh morphine pumps, what fun.

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  3. PJ says:

    You know, I bet there WAS an aquarium around your head. Modern medicine is that scary.

    So glad everything looks to have gone well!

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  4. Kate says:

    Naw, PJ, Kimberly swears it was an ordinary oxygen mask. It just me and my usual fun with anesthesia drugs.

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  5. Kate says:

    Steven – the morphine pump was lovely. Could have kept it another day, too … sigh.

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  6. Mike Young says:

    The Borg would rue the day you entered the collective. I can see it now, all the green lights lots of Irish whiskey and folk songs. The queen would abdicate to you.

    Like

  7. Kate says:

    Oh, Mike – what a sweet thing to say!

    Like

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