Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finally, 12/12/12 is nigh...

It's a good thing I'm not a superstitious sort.

While the doomsdayers are fearing armageddon and Indian comics are playing a marathon comedy show (12 hours, 12 minutes, and 12 seconds, starting at 12 p.m. on 12/12/12), I will be having brain and ear surgery.

As many of you know, I've been anxious to get this dealio over with for some time and now the day is nearly here. I report at the hospital on Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. to have a pre-surgery MRI and CT scan. The surgery is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., and it could take up to 5 hours.

My dissatisfaction with the neurosurgeon's office has continued, unfortunately. Last week was extremely stressful. As of last Tuesday, I had not received any hospital paperwork and I did not have the pre-op MRI scheduled. (The neurosurgeon's assistant has never called me to confirm my surgery, although I did finally get a call back from someone else in the practice, who said that I would be hearing from her at the first of December.) I called her on Tuesday and left a message. No response (even though her voice mail says she returns calls on the same day).

On Wednesday, I called again at 1:00 p.m. and caught her at her desk. She didn't seem to know why I was calling, and then she claimed that she was in the middle of scheduling my MRI. (Yeah, right.) She claimed she thought she had called me back, and I told her that she has never called me and I hadn't talked to her since Oct. 18 in the office. She informed me that I needed to have blood work done at the hospital, in addition to a MRSA (strep bacteria) test that takes 48 hours to culture. I couldn't schedule the blood work until I had the MRI scheduled and had received the hospital preadmit paperwork. This was only 1 week before the surgery, and we had plans to leave town at noon on Friday for Seattle. When I expressed concern about fitting everything in before surgery, she had the nerve to tell me not to worry and that everything would get done. She was defensive and snippy, probably because she knew she had screwed up. She took my phone number and said she'd call me with the MRI time and put the hospital forms in the mail that day. Then I called the surgery scheduler at the ear clinic and left a message. Neither called me back that afternoon.

That afternoon and evening I was feeling so mad and emotional, mostly because I was afraid she would tell me that the MRI had to be tonight (the night of Kieran's show on the mainstage, which I was determined to attend!). I did not have any faith in her ability to set things up, much less her willingness to respect my schedule commitments. Fortunately I was able to vent to my nurse friends Catherine and Kristin, and that evening my sister Nadine (an internist) helped me formulate a plan of action.

The next morning I called again. She was in a more conciliatory mood and told me that she'd stayed late trying to schedule the MRI (forgive me if I take that with a pinch of salt) and the hospital computer system had gone down. She still had no date/time for me, but she said that she was going to try to schedule it the day of the surgery so I wouldn't have to come in the day before. She also gave me the phone # of the presurgical clinic at the hospital. When I called, they had no record of my surgery, so the ineptness continued...but by the end of the day, I had a presurgical appointment for Monday and the MRI scheduled for tomorrow morning.

I did not need all that stress leading up to this. Over the weekend I found myself getting emotional (we went to Nadine and David's Episcopal church in Puyallup, and I was a puddle of tears), and I feel very fragile. I'm angry that this surgery is so close to Christmas. I love the holidays, and they will not be the same this year. I'm going to miss so many things, such as Kieran and Nicholas' holiday concert at school, Christopher's holiday band concert, and many of Kieran's performances. I'll miss the pre-holiday activities and the company parties. I do not feel happy about anticipating the holidays.

I'm not looking forward to the pain and I'm already worrying about pain management. Then there's the concern about how much of my hair they will shave, and I'm dreading the post-op visit to the neurosurgeon's office. Will I be able to sleep okay? (Percocet does not seem to make me sleepy, and last time I couldn't sleep well.) The kids won't be able to visit me the first 24 hours in the ICU, so I'll be worried about them not being able to visit too.

Clearly, I'm having a hard time letting go of all the various goings-on in my life, including Christmas prep. I'm the present buyer and wrapper in the family, and I want to get all the presents somewhat organized before I go to bed tonight. I have to take two pre-op showers (tonight and tomorrow) with a special Hibiclens cleaner. I'm stressing about all the things I will not be able to do while I'm recovering.

I've pondered why I'm more emotional and worried about this surgery, and I think it's because of the brain thing. I wasn't worried about my c-sections, but I also had a wonderful little baby boy as my reward. I tend not to panic about surgeries, and I trust the surgeons and nurses who are caring for me. It's not that I don't trust them this time, but it's just the overall stress associated with the scheduling in addition to the timing over the holidays. When I face my third and final ear surgery in 2013, I will feel greatly relieved to have all of this over with. I'm not usually a worrier, and I'm not really worried that the surgery won't go well...but for some reason I'm feeling emotional, damn it, and I wish that would stop!

At the same time, I'm completely overwhelmed by the generosity of family and friends (also making me emotional!). One of my dear friends, Catherine, gave me a "12 days before surgery" care package, with a card and present to open each day before my surgery. That has cheered me up tremendously. Kristin and my other Catherine gave me some beautiful pajamas. Annette and Neal brought us mulligatawny and pie this afternoon. A childhood friend, who I have not seen for many years, sent me a veritable treasure trove of CDs, DVDs, and books, out of the goodness and generosity of her heart! Other friends dropped off a card and dark chocolate (my favorite!). Countless others have e-mailed, called, sent cards, and offered their practical help carting children around.

And when I posted the photo above to Facebook today (it was on our employee photo of the day page), my friend and coworker Roy wrote,

"That's a great visual to carry with you, Marie, for tomorrow:
Christ with his arms outstretched before you,
calming your stormy heart and mind and body, and whispering, I'm with you."

I love this image Roy gave me. He tells me that tomorrow, his ears will sympathize and connect with mine...and he will not listen to radio or TV. How did I get to be so blessed, to have such an amazing and supportive community of friends, coworkers, and family? Feeling grateful and overcome with grace.

I will carry that into surgery with me...not just Christ with his arms outstretched, but all of you, with your arms wrapped around me. Tears falling now as I write this.

Onto some fun family theater, and the hospital in the morning!


  1. Dear Marie,
    We send our love, positive energy, and wishes for peace as you prepare for this surgery. It is the time of comfort and joy; may you be comforted throughout the process, and may you have joy through the support of family and friends. Peace be with you, your family, and your medical team.

    Tami and Gregg V.

  2. Thank you so much, Tami and Gregg. I am so thankful for Facebook, as it has enabled me to become virtual friends with you after knowing you for so long, but not really knowing you before Facebook!