Monday, July 09, 2007

July 9, 2007 - Just Get Me to the O.R. on Time

This morning I awaken in our Adirondacks house in Jay, New York, on this last morning of a brief stay. It's the day when I'm scheduled to drive back home. I've just had another nightmare, prior to surgery. (This sort of thing is getting to be a habit with me.)

My surgical procedure tomorrow, at Ocean Medical Center's interventional radiology suite, is going to be an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy: Dr. David Feng, presiding. He's the same doc who did my core-needle biopsy, at the time of my initial diagnosis.

Events unfold rather differently, in my dream. For some reason, my surgery is going to be at the University of Iowa Hospitals – the place where our son, Benjamin, had a couple of minor eye operations, years ago, when he was very young (we were living in Iowa, then). Accompanying me to the hospital is my brother, Dave. In place of Dr. Feng, conducting my needle biopsy will be Dr. Aron Gornish (the same doctor who was scheduled to do the excisional biopsy, but called it off at the last minute).

The hospital complex is huge: corridor after corridor to wander through. It feels as big as the Pentagon. Eventually, we find Dr. Gornish, and he brings me back into the operating room, to show me what to expect. He holds out a mask, that closely resembles my BiPAP mask in shape – although it's constructed of sinister-looking dark metal and rubber, rather than clear plastic. It looks like something Darth Vader would wear. This is for you to wear during the operation, he explains: it will take care of your apnea problem and also deliver your anesthesia.

I also meet the members of the operating-room team. They're not ready for me yet, so they suggest we go away for a while and come back later. Go get something to eat, they suggest.

Dave and I do that. Somewhere along the line, I've changed into a hospital gown and slippers. He and I climb into a rental car – me, still in my hospital gown – and drive into the town. The town has morphed into Chestertown, Maryland, Claire's and my college town (home of Washington College, our alma mater).

We grab a quick bite to eat, someplace, then rush back, because my anxiety level is rising. There are traffic and parking delays, but eventually we do make it back, in the nick of time. It's then that we become utterly and completely lost, in the hospital complex's maze of corridors. Nothing looks familiar. We keep walking and walking, as the minutes tick by (I'm still in the hospital gown). The time of my reporting for the surgery comes and goes, but still Dave and I are no nearer to figuring out where we are, and where the operating room is.

Along the way, I vaguely wonder whether I should have had something to eat, after all. Wasn't I supposed to abstain from eating and drinking, beginning the night before the procedure? It was the operating-room team who suggested we go get something to eat – could they have goofed up? Or, did I just hear them wrong?

I hear my name being paged by a tinny, nasal voice, over the hospital p.a. system: "Mr. Wilton, Mr. Wilton, please report to the Operating Room." We walk faster, but seem to be no closer to our destination than we were before. It occurs to me that I ought to just pick up a phone and tell them we're on our way, but we figure finding a phone would waste too much time.

We pass by a huge, imposing- looking meeting room, that vaguely resembles the General Assembly of the United Nations – lots of wood paneling and hundreds of seats. Through large windows, we can see all the doctors from the hospital streaming in there, for some kind of important meeting. I wonder if Dr. Gornish is in there with the others. That would mean we're too late.

Finally we make it to the correct wing of the hospital, where I run into a member of the operating-room team, still clad in green scrubs. We've been looking and looking for you, he says. Dr. Gornish has gone for the day, so you've missed the operation. Don't worry about it, though. Come back tomorrow. We'll try to squeeze you in.

With that, I wake up. Good thing, too – I’m glad to be out from under that dream.

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