The alarm went off at 6am. It was a little strange waking up this early but not for a shoot. My mom was up already. I realized I should have woken up a bit earlier. I went to the kitchen and had few sips of water. Didn’t want to push my luck. As I turned on the shower, it struck me that it was my last shower for the next few weeks. I didn’t even know how I was going to make it through. My brain doesn’t function if I don’t shower. But then, I won’t need my brain to function much.
I called up the hospital and confirmed the reservation for my ward. As I packed and prepared to leave, I noticed my mother was worried sick by now. My father therefore decided she wouldn’t come along. Instead, it would be best if she came to visit in the evening when everything was done. She tried to argue a little but realized it was for the best.
I didn’t listen to music on the way to the hospital. Nor did me and my father talk much. I was sort of enjoying the peace. I was in a weird state of mind. The idea that you won’t walk for next few months can take some time to settle in. But I also liked the thought of my knee fixed once and for all. I was trying to plan it all.
While at the billing counter, my father took a selfie with me. It was so badly timed, but it did lighten up my mood. The photo came out as bad as cute the gesture was. Once we finished the billing and paperwork, we were taken to the ward. It was a twin sharing with no other patient in it. I could pick the bed, so I picked the one by the window even though I didn’t have to stay there for too long. If everything were to go by the plan, I was supposed to be released in 48-72hours after the surgery. I really hoped that it went by the plan.
A nurse came in with my wrist tag, hand sanitizer bottle and a box of various kinds of drips and injections to be kept by the bed. She also gave me a XXL sized gown and pajama. I was expecting it to be like those big one-piece gowns you see in movies and tv shows. Instead the pajama had an old school nara (string). I wondered what would patients with one or both hands in cast do? I was then asked to lie on the bed so that they could conduct some preliminary tests and ask me some questions.
A young doctor came and asked for my blood reports. He noticed that my platelet count was below 1,00,000. He made a note of it and continued asking questions.
“Do you consume alcohol?”
“Do you smoke?”
“Any drug usage?”
“Are you on any medication?”
“Are you diabetic?”
“Any history of surgery?”
He left the room. And came another doctor. Who repeated exactly what the earlier doctor did. In the same manner, in the same order. And another doctor followed her. Did the same thing. Then came another. Asked the same set of questions. Obviously, I was getting a little impatient. But in total seven doctors (or droids?) came by and asked the exact set of questions in the exact order. The last one didn’t have to ask complete questions.
“I don’t consume alcohol or drugs. I don’t smoke. I am on no medication and not a diabetic. I have no known allergies.” He smiled, made note of all of those and continued to take my blood pressure. It was normal.
Then came the floor manager. Very smartly dressed in a long snug kurta and churidaar, high heels and long earrings wearing a very strong refreshing citrusy perfume. She had a tablet in her hand (the device!). “You see, if you are diabetic, alcoholic, smoker or allergic to something specific, it might change the course of your surgery. More doctors will need to be appointed and the procedures will get longer often resulting in increase in the charges. We want to give you the correct estimate and ensure no unnecessary procedures are done. Thus, the charade of questions. If you need anything, please feel free to contact me” she said handing over her business cards to everyone in the room.
As soon as the floor manager left, came another nurse to take blood samples. I pointed to my right hand but she, like every nurse in my history of blood tests, lifted my left hand. And exactly like every time, she poked two-three times unable to find the vein. She then settled for my right hand. I had already given blood samples twice in last three days. She had to find a new spot to poke. I am not scared of needles but yeah, it’s not the best feeling.
One of the doctors came back and told me I would need a set of X-Rays to be taken before the surgery. Following him a was ward boy with a wheelchair. I smiled and said I could just walk to the imaging center. “Once you’ve changed into the patient gown and worn that tag, you are not allowed to just walk around. The only way you can be transported to anywhere is either on a wheelchair or a stretcher” he replied in a very mechanical way. I complied. More droids?
Upon my return from the X-Rays (which went pretty uneventful thankfully), I was greeted by a nurse with a trimmer in his hand. I pulled my pajama up to reveal my leg.
“No no, you need to take it off. I need to clean the entire area”
“What? But the surgery is only of the knee…”
“Yeah…but it’s the norm. Let’s hurry up. We don’t have much time”
“Can you at least pull the curtains around?”
He sighed and reluctantly just pulled around the curtains leaving some gap. I kept looking at him waiting for him to realize that he needs to close it all the way. He looked back at me with the expression that clearly said he won’t do anything further in that regard. I started to feel a little annoyed now. Why would they disregard a patient’s privacy like that?
I slowly pulled down my pajama and he just yanked it off my legs. First few seconds of that trimmer on my legs and I knew I was going to get severely scratched. I could see marks like when you scratch your dry skin in winters. He ruthlessly continued to trim every nook and corner of my right leg and groin.
“Mamu, is it done?” shouted a nurse from between the gap. I panicked and covered myself with my pajama. “Don’t come here. I am not done yet” shouted Mamu back snatching away the pajama from me and continuing the trimming. She left closing the gap in the curtains to my relief.
“Hello Himanshu, hope you’re doing good. I will see you in sometime” greeted my doctor from the other side of the curtain looking for an opening to peep in. I again tensed up and almost lost it. WHY THE F**K DOES ANYONE NOT CARE ABOUT PRIVACY HERE? I was soon going to arrive at the answer myself. He left though without opening the curtain. I could hear a doctor and nurse talking to my dad and it was freaking me out that if one of them decides to just open the curtain, what would I do? Luckily nobody did.
I had to bear fifteen minutes of painful scratching of my skin before I could wear the pajama again. Though, I would say, there were no real scratches or cuts. Just a lot of dry smooth skin now.
“You’re NBM right?”
“Nil by Mouth? You’ve not had anything for last six hours, right?”
“Good. Your reports came in. We are going ahead with the surgery. Your platelet count has risen.”
I was put on a stretcher and taken down to the operation theater. I crossed so many patients on my way in various conditions. The view of the world from a stretcher is surreal. Everyone looks at you like there’s something wrong with you. Random people crossing make sure they look at you in the eye as if asking what’s wrong with you. The stretcher keeps bumping here and there and you wonder if the ward boys really care about you or not. Then you notice they make sure it bumps into them and not anything else. Everything starts to slow down. You realize no matter how well you prepared for it. No matter how easy the doctor made it seem, you’re still scared out of wits when you start to hear the commotion of a busy operation theatre with all the beeps and hisses.
I was stopped at the entrance of the main OT and was greeted by a couple of doctors who were not only super good-looking but happy, calm and pleasant. One of them, who later I discovered was the physician, started explaining me that the platelet count has risen to a safe level and I should not worry about it at all. I requested to use the washroom.
When I came back from the washroom, I found my father waiting there. He asked me if I was ok. He was told by the hospital staff to come and meet me before the surgery. Both of us wondered if this was just a protocol they follow or was there something serious. The same doctor explained that it is just a protocol. As harsh as it may sound, they don’t know what the outcome would be in the OT. So, they prefer that the close family meets the patient before the surgery. Also, it often increases the confidence of the patient and calms him down. Often, not always though.
My father is a very calm person when it comes to medical procedures or probably any kind of emergency. Having a background in science and medicine, he not only understands how it all works but also understands the psychology of both the patient as well as the doctors. He was the perfect mediator between me and the hospital. I need mediation. I can suddenly be very impatient and vocal about things. He knows it well. I think it was indeed a good idea to not have my mother around. She is the strongest human being I know but when it comes to me, she becomes very vulnerable.
I was wheeled to the inner section of the OT and I crossed two open doors where I saw doctors performing surgeries. One of them had something going on in the abdomen. I took a deep breath and continued staring at the ceiling. My OT was much bigger than the ones I had seen on the way. But it was freezing.
I noticed the operation table was barely wide enough to hold a person. Obviously, it wasn’t for comfortable sleeping. The physician was joined by two more lady doctors, who were again, strikingly good looking. One of them, older than the other, told me she was going to administer anesthesia and it would cause tingling, pricking and a little bit of pinching in the beginning followed by a surge of heat and loss of control over the lower body. But it’s going to be absolutely controlled and I should not be worried at all.
Their tones were all so confident and calm that it put me to a lot of ease. The main surgeon, Dr. Gurvinder Singh Sawhney, joined and he’s a very talkative happy guy. So he just resumed talking to me like it was just another day. He has a million stories for every incident.
“You guys take some pictures of this surgery. Because this guy is a cinematographer. He’ll make it big one day and you’ll want to boast that you fixed his knee. Also, not to forget, the surgery itself is not so common” chucked Dr. Sawhney.
They made me sit up and uncovered my back. The anesthetist announced that a needle prick is coming up. And a second later I felt a little burning prick in my lower spine. A couple of more followed. Then I felt a thicker needle being inserted but didn’t feel the pain. It just felt odd. What followed next was big jolt down my spine and lower body like they pumped lead or mercury or something. I felt it go through my body all the way down. They made me lay down again.
“It’s all good. Don’t worry ok? Himanshu? It’s all fine” she told me caressing my forehead and arms like a mother assuring her child. They adjusted me on the table, put up a screen right over my chest to block my view of the surgery and two extended supports were fixed on each side for my arms. On my right arm was fixed a blood pressure monitor and my left arm a vein flan was fixed for the drip. They put heart monitor sensors over my neck and chest. My arms were now locked in that position. Like Jesus on the cross.
By now, I was shivering due to cold. They wrapped a number of bedsheets around my face and fixed a warm blower. The younger lady doctor was responsible for monitoring my vitals. I noticed that everyone was going about their business like every day. They were cribbing and gossiping about other people in the hospital, sharing stories about very trivial mundane incidents and laughing about them. Their mouths and faces were doing whatever, but their hands were working like a machine very meticulously doing everything.
I had lost sensation in my lower body. In my head I could feel my legs in exactly the same position as they were before the anesthesia just that I couldn’t move it anymore. It didn’t feel odd. It was a new feeling. This was my first experience with anesthesia ever. The younger lady doctor picked up a small plastic cap and started rubbing it softly on my stomach slowly going down asking me “Can you feel this?”.
At the edge of where my pajama was, I could feel the numbness begin. I felt someone open my pajama and pull it down. I went silent. I wished they could have waited for it to become completely numb before pulling it out. I wouldn’t have realized it. Now I was aware that I was lying naked on that table and a bunch of people, ladies inclusive were just walking around doing stuff.
They continued to talk to me like nothing happened. Like I was still wearing clothes and sitting normally next to them. And this slowly took my attention away from my nakedness. It is then I realized that their job is to save lives. It doesn’t affect them if people are naked. They signed up for this when they began their career as a doctor. It’s not about anyone’s privacy in a hospital. It’s about saving lives, fixing problems and helping people get back to a normal life again outside this hospital. I took a deep breath and relaxed.
It takes about half an hour to prepare for a minimal invasive arthroscopic surgery. The cold slowly stopped bothering me. The rhythm of the beeps and whooshes in the OT started to put me to a sort of half-sleep. As the procedure continued the room went quiet. The last thing I heard was them putting the tourniquet and Dr. Sawhney checking to make sure the pressure on it was three times my blood pressure. I would feel a little shake every now and then when they would adjust my leg, fold it or stretch it. I could see a blurred reflection on the light above me of my knee and I knew the surgery had now begun.
To be continued…