So last Thursday I had my surgery to repair my eye, and it was, for the most part, a success.
On Wednesday Elaine's parents took us to dinner in Toronto then dropped us off at the Super 8 at Dundas and Spadina. Surprisingly really nice hotel, considering there were about 5 fishmongers within view of our room. Couldn't smell them, at least.
Oh, yeah. On the car ride to the city I became nervous. I think that's fair. So I started to bite my fingernail. Not two bites in I heard a kind of "crunch", then I felt something thin and hard in my mouth. I figured it was part of my nail, which I admit is gross, but I was going in for surgery, I will have none of your judgment. No, this bit of detritus was a piece of my goddamn tooth. Night before major surgery, I chip a tooth. I've been trying to figure out the Karmic reason for chipping my tooth, and I've narrowed it down to either my fighting the cat a lot, or because I almost spit on a guy a few months ago. That's probably the one.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't sleep all that well. Hadn't for about a week. We packed up and headed to Western, only a block or so away. It's a long block if you're going in for surgery. We got to the waiting room, watched some "Married: With Children" and then they called my name. They got me into what honestly looked like a gay Jedi's robes ("The Force is with you, and it's fabulous!"). I even had to put soft little booties on, which had a bit of a curl at the toes. So, here I am, the blind, gay Jedi of the lamp, freezing in the prep room with a bunch of others with the same poor wardrobe thrust upon them. Elaine and I did some crosswords (she read them, I answered), and then a nurse came over. She checked my blood pressure, which is normally bang on normal. "It is a little high, I think, you normally have high pressure?" "Uh, no, not really." "Your temperature high too, you have fever!" I had a minor panic at this. Was I going to be denied the surgery if they thought I had the damn swine flu? I asked her what the temperature was. "Thirty-seven point five." That's like one degree over. Either this woman has never met a nervous person before or she's the world's biggest hypochondriac. I feel sorry for her kids, if that's the case.
"Mr. Barra? Barra-Berger? Daniel? Barra?" I love having so many names. And usually only "Daniel" is pronounced properly. Anyhow, after going through the list of titles, I figured they meant me. I stood up. "It's time, Mr., uh, Daniel. Are you ready?" "No." I said, matter-of-factly. "Well, we're ready for you, so let's go."
Keep in mind I'm hungry and freezing at this point, what with not having eaten for the previous 15 hours or so. The path to the operating rooms includes a walk-by of the nurses' lunchroom. Good god it smelled delicious, and I almost banked a hard right into the break room for a bit of, I don't know what it was, falafel it smelled like. That's not a kind thing to do to people doing the hospital march. I would have made a run at it, too, but Elaine and the strangely strong East Indian nurse had a good clamp on my arm.
Once you've gone from the cold, uninviting waiting room, you are taken into the even colder, even more uninviting pre-op room. I don't know if that's what it's called, but there you are. You're plopped, unceremoniously into a giant uncomfortable leather chair reminiscent of the Emperor's chair in "Return of the Jedi". In the Emperor's throne, though, you command the 501st Stormtrooper legion to ambush "that rebel scum" on Endor's forest moon. In this chair you get an IV put in and a "warm blanket" that stays warm for all of 15 seconds. . The feeling of raw power the chair imparts upon you is cruelly wrenched away in the grip of an anesthesiologist's cold hand.
During this visit to the OR they didn't connect the IV bag right away, leaving what looked like a tiny kazoo sticking out of my wrist. I wasn't entire sussed about this idea, and though I had a compulsion to blow in it and see what noise it would make, I thought better of it. I've seen enough "House, M.D." to know that air in the blood is bad, even if done for musical and comedic effect.
"Ok, Daniel, we're ready for you in the operating room." At least they'd given up trying to say my other, apparently impossible, names.
I hugged and kissed Elaine, which was the hardest part of the day. Her being there was keeping me warm inside, which was helpful since the goddamn blanket was less than useless. I was taken through a labyrinth of halls as I tried to keep Elaine out of my mind, the feeling to run back in her direction was pretty hard to resist. The nurses talked to me, telling me that when I could see again that I'd be able to do housework like normal. Yeah, that's what I'd do.
I was taken into the coldest room yet, the operating room. I wouldn't have been surprised to see choice cuts of beef hanging around the room's perimeter, and just as I was about to ask for a shoulder roast I was helped onto the operating table.
"We're going to put some saline solution in your IV to make sure it's working, you might feel cold." 'Cold? You know nothing of cold', I thought.
Turns out I knew nothing of cold, because this was like being on the Hogwarts Express as a dementor peers into your car, their cold, rattling breath, your blood turning to ice, the feeling that you'd never be happy again. I wanted to shout "Expecto Patronum!" but I left my wand back in St. Catharines. The Canadian branch of Azkaban is the Toronto Western Hospital.
After the saline was coursing through my veins, they hooked me up to the real IV bag. I don't know what is in it, but I usually enjoy this part. They put the plastic mask on me and told me to breathe, and so I did.
"Ten, nine, eight…" I said.
"Why are you counting?" asked the anesthesiologist.
"Because I need the practise? No, I know the deal, I count down, and by four I'm asleep." I replied.
The answer was formed in my mind before she had a chance to tell me what was going on. I should have been beyond "four" by now. No, no, they can't do this while…
"You'll be awake for this one, Daniel." She cheerily informed me.
"Wha…why? I don't want to be awake while you're…poking around in my eye!" I said, a note of panic clearly rising in my voice.
"You'll be fine." She reassured me.
"But…what if my eye twitches?"
Another voice came out of the ether, "then don't twitch." This was the surgeon saying this.
"Just like that, eh?" I asked, not masking my angry sarcasm.
"Yep!" He said, as he leaned over me. I couldn't see his face through my poor vision and his face mask, but I'm sure he was smiling.
"You can't put me out? I wouldn't mind being knocked out. I was looking forward to it, actually."
Then I felt a dull touch on my eye then my vision went black.
I heard voices bouncing around the room. Most were talking about switching implements and where to put what. I heard the surgeon say something, I think "saline solution" to the assistant, who also said "saline solution," followed by a robotic voice saying "saline solution." Two things: Is there nothing saline solution can't do? And what is the robot doing there? I swear I heard the surgeon say "Oh, shit," at one point, but I guess it was a false alarm. Still, not what you want to hear.
I saw flashes that entertained me, like quasars and pulsars on a high-speed space journey.
Alright, maybe I was a little stoned, but I wouldn't recommend conscious eye surgery to anyone.
Oh, and once I was scolded for asking how it was going. I heard a scramble to change my IV bag and then "please don't talk." Surgeons aren't the best conversationalists.
"Ok, I think we're done here!" I heard a female voice say.
:You think? Or you know?" I groggily said.
"We know." The surgeon's voice appeared..
I accepted this, and, finding my feet, was guided into the post-op room. I don't know if it was the drugs passing through my veins still, or what, but this room was by far warmer than any other in the hospital.
"Before you leave, you need to have a drink to prove to us you can keep down liquids." One nurse told me.
I was dreading this part. I loathe ginger ale and apple juice, and the last time I had surgery they only gave me those two options. I was such a shit about it that they kept me in a closed ward away from other people until I was ready to have a drink. I was essentially given a time out.
The nurse started, "Ginger ale, apple juice," 'ugh,' I thought, "tea," she continued, "or coffee."
"What? Coffee? Really?"
"Yes, would you like one?"
"Oh my god, yes. Black, please."
"No thanks, I'm sweet enough as it is."
She had a good laugh at this and even brought me extra cookies.
I'd like to take a second to tell everyone this: be good to your nurses. They have more pull and clout than you think, and they deserve some recognition.
So I guess they called Elaine when I was done, and they led her to the room where I was recovering. She expected me to be dazed, out of it, and most likely grumpy beyond consolation. I don't think she expected me to be alert, sitting in a chair, shooting the shit with a nurse as I drank coffee and noshed on cookies. She thought they hadn't done the surgery, and though I tried to play it as nonchalant as I possibly could, I'd never been happier to be near her.
I was discharged about twenty minutes later, said my good goodbyes to the nurses and got dressed. Then the eating began. You'd have thought I hadn't eaten for a month. BLT sesame bagel. Medium McDonald's fries (I'm not proud, but it's my comfort food). When we got to my parents' place I ate a ham croissant, two bowls of carrot soup and a bunch of these tiny hamburger sliders.
We went back to the hospital at 7:30 the next morning for a post-op check-up. I'd been wearing a patch over my eye since the surgery so the lack of sunlight didn't bother me all that much.
"Mr., uh, Barra-Berger? Daniel? Barra?" Jesus.
Entering the office the doctor removed the patch. Wow, was I ever light-sensitive. It took a few seconds for me to gather my bearings. He peered into my eye with all sorts of lights and lenses and concluded that the surgery was a success.
"Uh, though we had to guess as to what kind of lens to put into your eye, so we may have made you, uh, near-sighted. As a result, you will probably need glasses."
Like I gave a shit.
I've been near-sighted all my life, and I've sported glasses since before I was two. He could have told me I had to wear a welder's mask all the time, but if that's what it would take for me to see, I would have done it.
He began to jot down a prescription and I had a glance around the room. Then, like Luke at the end of "The Empire Strikes Back" I began to inspect my hand, as though it were new. I wiggled my fingers in front of my face. I have fingernails. I have knuckles. I have scratches all over my wedding ring. You don't know how fascinating a left hand is until you haven't seen it for almost a year. The surgeon tried to give me the paperwork but I was too enthralled with my palm at that moment, so Elaine took it from him instead.
We went into the hall where my mom and grandparents were waiting. I was still in a kind of shock. I felt a squeeze on my hand and I turned to look at Elaine. I could see my wife. Only in small increments: her eyes, her nose, her cheek; but I could see her. That moment is now up there as the second happiest point of my life, after our wedding day. I've never loved her more.
So we fast forward a few days to today. I have to wear a patch outside until the doctor tells me it's ok not to, I have drops every day for the next four weeks, and I also get to wear sunglasses around the house. Elaine's getting pretty damn sick of the David Caruso impressions, let me tell you.
The saline solution in my eye has replaced the oil, making everything I look at wobbly and watery. Even so, I was able to hold my copy of the new Jack Johnson live cd (which, for the record, is awesome), in front of my face and read the track listing. I call that a victory.
I still have a cloudy patch in my field of vision, which I'm assuming is scar tissue on the retina. This may or may not heal, but only time well tell. I've been a little cocky in thinking that I'd be back on Xbox Live by now, but it's looking like that isn't all that far off. I've still got a few new games to pick up before Christmas and I have confidence that I'll get to play them.
I won't say this is all over; I've got another appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday. He may or may not give me the "all-clear" to get glasses or what, and how soon, but even what I've got now is an improvement over last week. I'll take that.
I want to thank everyone again for all the support you've all given me over the last year. I may look back on 2009 as my "lost year" but I know I couldn't have made it through without the kindness everyone has shown me. So, I know I've said it before, but it's still not enough, thank you.
Next step: Elvis Costello glasses!