Saturday, February 9, 2013

A life list item I wasn't counting on

Well now I can check off my life list “being in an operating room,” not that that's probably on too many people's life lists. It wasn't on mine. But if it were: check!

After not going to the dermatologist in five years, despite being rather moley (that's a technical term), I learned that a smallish and very dark brown one on my upper arm was very irregular and needed to go. Instead of just zapping it off and giving me a single stitch there in his office, my doc sent me to NYU medical hospital. I have a good friend who went to medical school there when we were in our early 20s, so I have plenty of memories of roaming around that building in the wee hours of the morning after carousing around Murray Hill. But I had never actually been there as a patient.

Upon arrival I was repeatedly asked the following: who is picking me up after my surgery and does anyone at home hurt me. The answer to both was no one, of course. I gather that both questions are standard, but still, a bit alarming. I hope that the repeated questions about domestic abuse might help someone out there who is afraid to report a bad situation but happens to find herself getting a mole cut out of her arm.

I changed into a paper gown as instructed and put all my belongings, including my glasses, into a locker. I then waited in a small changing room with just a People magazine and no Chapstick for I have no idea how long. The more I thought about not having access to Chapstick, the more dry my lips became.

The awesome thing about this gown, however, was that it had a port for injecting hot air with a vacuum hose! So I read People magazine right in front of my face, with chapped lips, and while wearing a gown puffed up with hot air.

Finally a nurse came for me. She asked if I needed a wheel chair. I said I certainly did not, aside from not being able to see that great and possibly bumping into and knocking over an IV stand. She laughed and said she'd guide me. Apparently the nurses at NYU are prepared for bad jokes. They also took it in stride when they asked me if I have any metal in my body. “No,” I replied, “but I'm not certain the aliens didn't implant me with any when they abducted me.” There was a pause and then the nurse laughed and said, “ha okay, good. And I'll make a note to give you a referral to a psychiatrist as well.” Hmm, I'm pretty sure she was joking back.

Anyway, I followed the nice nurse through a maze of hallways to the operating room. I told her on the way that I felt ridiculous taking up everyone's time for such a minor procedure. She said not to worry, every procedure is important. Aww. A point for her.

When I arrived at the room, all the nurses and my surgeon were wearing masks. The nurse who had walked me there asked me to introduce myself to everyone else, which I did. They all said, “hi, Craige,” like it was my first day of kindergarten.

I had been told that I could leave my underpants on, but as I was climbing on the table, the nice nurse said, “sometimes the elastic in underpants has a small amount of metal, so maybe you should take yours off, just in case.” FYI, when getting a mole less than the width of a pencil eraser removed from your arm, you may want to ensure you are not wearing ancient pink and white striped underpants. It's just not one of those things one considers. So off they went and into the hand of the nice nurse. CRINGE. In an attempt to reassure me, the nice nurse said, “it's just that an electrical current will be coursing through your body, so you wouldn't want to get burned.” No indeed. My surgeon said, “don't tell her that!” Ha.

So there I was, completely naked for the removal of a very small mole, electricity coursing through my body for some reason, a paper tent covering my face so that I could not see what was going on (dammit!). I would much prefer the option to look away if it's too much. My surgeon asked over and over how I was doing. I guess he wanted to ensure I hadn't passed out or something, who knows. That was disconcerting. “I'm fine!” I said in a weirdly high voice each time. I felt pretty calm overall, I think, although at one point, the nice nurse put her hand on my other forearm and said soothingly, “I'm right here.” Maybe I had seemed stressed? I realized I had been fiddling with the pulse monitor on my finger.

The whole thing was over pretty fast. When I sat up, my upper arm was covered in a bandage and I couldn't see the wound at all. Annoying! I want to see! I could make out a pile of bloody gauze in a bucket on the floor, but without my glasses I couldn't tell specifics. I was bummed that I couldn't see more.

So that was my Wednesday morning. By the late afternoon I was noticing bright red just under my skin around the outside of the bandage, which freaked me out. My friend, Schuyler, who is a doctor (ref: friend who went to NYU med) kindly reviewed many texts from me as the area got redder and redder. It seems I'm just a champion bruiser and now it's turning a lovely shade of snot yellow.

I felt something under my shirt that seemed odd that afternoon and thought oh my god, they forgot one of those ECG stickers on me. I went to the bathroom and peeled it off. That night at home I found TWO MORE.

Anyway, operating room visit: check. On Monday I get the stitches out and I get to see the damage. It looks like there might actually be three holes, two alongside the original mole area.