The left eye was first and the experience was flawlessly breezy. Very brief waiting time in spite of a packed lobby and some outrageously loud gales of tension-relieving laughter during the check-in process.
HER: (in the middle of rapid-fire prepping) ...and if CPR is needed, we'll be transporting you to the Honor Health hospital just three blocks away. Do you have a Living Will and/or Medical Power of Attorney?
ME: (overcoming stunned sensation) Yes to both but I don't have them with me!
Several comments sprinkled with expletives were racing through my mind but instead I shot a glance toward the lobby and leaned in, "Are you sure I'm in the right place?"
She lost it. We both did because no one laughs longer or more loudly at at my jokes than I do.
HER: Yes, of course, this is all standard procedure. (Which, as we all know, is medical speak for "just covering our asses.)
No sooner had we finalized the paperwork than someone was whisking me away to "the room where it happens." Or so I thought. No hospital gowns in this joint, just crawl into bed with your shoes on. Nice. Quick and easy IV insertion, endless rounds of numbing eye drops, and the parting smile of my Bradley Cooper-esque anesthesiologist as he sent me floating into a brief sensory euphoria of dazzling lights dancing around three fuzzy white balls. That was it. Faraway sounds, voices, movements, the light show—and suddenly I was opening my eyes back up to attendants gathering my belongings and helping me off the bed. These surgeries only last 10 or 15 minutes so patients are spaced closely together and move along in brisk cattle-call fashion. In and out. I felt slightly sluggish and disoriented but I was navigating well enough.
I thought Eye Number One was as good as it gets until Eye Number Two, although the scene leading up to surgery was far less smooth. The wait time in a nearly empty lobby was a long one, which gives any surgery patient more time to stew, and the check-in process was worse than humorless. Somewhere along the way my first name had been misspelled. Margeret? Really? Apparently, this snafu had followed me around from the very first doctor visit so now my jitters included nightmares about Medicare rejecting a mounting stack of claims. Next came a woman who couldn't place a working IV in my vein. Maybe she heard my silent screams of GO GET SOMEONE WHO FUCKING KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING! because that's what she finally did.
It wasn't until the IV-savior nurse introduced my Derek Luke-esque anesthesiologist that the BIG fun kicked off. The sight of his most handsome self took me completely off guard because I expected the same cast of characters to show up for the second performance.
ME TO THE NURSE: "I had someone else before and I swore when I came back that I would ask him if he does house parties."
HER: "Oh you should ask this one. He dances!"
It could have ended there, but she flipped back a page in my chart and fairly shouted, "Oh I see you had Dr. Bradly Cooper! He's here today—let's find out."
My feeble "Oh my God, don't bother him" was lost in the ensuing circus ring of doctors and nurses who gathered around the bed laughing their assess off and adding a few jokes of their own.
Moving like lightning into the totally entrancing acid-trip portion of this surgical adventure, let's start by saying that I have no idea how these docs decide on a medication "cocktail." I hear it varies and my experience definitely did. This time around was more interactive, although it did require a focused effort to make my mouth form the words in my brain.
ME: Are you guys moving me right now?
THEM: Yes we are.
ME: You didn't move me last time.
THEM: Yeah, we did.
The next sensation felt like I was in the middle of a sheet that was being lifted and moved from one place to another. Holy shit! Is that really happening? That's a stupid question but a great moment for an extraterrestrial joke. After all, this entire experience is awesomely other-worldly.
ME: Are you sure I'm not being abducted by aliens?
THEM: No, it's still us.
Fairly sure I remained quiet during the surgery, simply because the kaleidoscope of lights and sensations was so overwhelmingly scintillating and pleasurable. My entire being was floating like an anemone, responding to the slightest stimulus with waves of delight.This time when I opened my eyes (reluctantly, very very reluctantly), I was staring at shiny red cabinets.
ME: I was never in this room last time.
THE NURSE BESIDE ME: Yes, you were.
ME: Are you sure this isn't the Mothership?
HER: No, but we do bring in the aliens to perform the surgery. Because, you know, they have such tiny little hands.
Her comment and the way she mimed her response made me laugh so hard I could barely catch my breath. That's when I noticed a grinning Dr. Derek Luke about three feet away.
HIM: Are you alright?
ME: Oh my God, I can't stop laughing.
As it turned out, I couldn't do a lot of things—including stand up, walk, or get myself out of a wheelchair and into the car seat without four-armed assistance.
The full float back to Earth and all the way into my body took a couple of days. No unpleasant crashes or side-effects. Just a gentle reentry on a cloud of relaxation, much the way I feel the first hour or two after a seriously deep meditation. Only better.
Which led me to the dawning of one very sure revelation: I could never be an anesthesiologist. Ever. In fact, that experience is my new vision of how heaven is going to feel. And a final note of gratitude to the aliens—great job. At least there's one sphere where "tiny hands" can still be cheered and appreciated.