That Surgeon Really Has Gall(bladder)
[NOTE: It's been a good run of essays, but the well seems to have run dry again. This may be the last one for a while. I hope you've enjoyed them, and hopefully I'll come up with something funny to write again soon. -- Liam]
My wife was at the hospital this week. Yes, we spend a lot of time at hospitals. And doctors offices. And dentists. And, heaven help me, orthodontists. Please, whatever power of the universe there may be, help my book start selling in unprecedented numbers! There have been orthodontists!
But I didn't begin this to talk about orthodontia, and frankly, there's simply nothing funny about finding out that all of my success and all of the money I get paid in the lucrative field of changing the magnetic patterns on a spinning disk can be swallowed up with nothing to spare by four of our five children (yes, heaven help me, four) who all need braces. I think I may cry.
And so it is that my wife is extremely fortunate to be moaning in agony at this moment, for at least she's got something to distract her.
Janet had her gallbladder out this week. She went in to the hospital a more or less healthy woman and came out a broken shell of humanity, able to keep the demon pain at bay only via the use of powerful sorcery called "Percocet".
They perform this removal in what used to be called the "Outpatient surgery" section of the hospital, but is now called "Same Day surgery" in the mistaken belief that we won't notice that she was on the waiting list for her "same day" surgery for about 3 months. They even rub your nose in it: if you call the hospital, they answer "Same day" in the sort of perky voice that tells me my wife isn't the only one dipping into the Percocet.
We started Monday morning off by getting up at an hour which is referred to in scientific circles as "way too F-ing early", because apparently the doctors have figured out that if they get you into the operating room while your organs are still asleep they'll put up a lot less of a fight. And of course, when someone has major surgery and more pain killers than Rush Limbaugh coursing through their veins, it's not a good idea for them to drive home, which meant that it was best if I brought her in before going to work, so that I could retrieve her after the procedure (they always call it a "procedure", because "sucking one of your major organs out of your body via a straw" might attract vampires).
And that's pretty much what they did. Janet had her gallbladder out by a technique called "laparoscopy", from the Latin "lapros" (many tiny holes) and "copus" (in my wife Janet). I'm not exactly sure how this works, except that they said her major discomfort (they always call it "discomfort", because "pain equivalent to rabid wolverines devouring your neck and shoulders" leads people to think they might hurt, and so they refuse surgery, and then the doctors have no choice but to perform their "procedures" on each other) would be caused by left over gas that they blew into her belly. Yes, really, apparently as part of the procedure they inflated my wife, secure in the knowledge that if there's one thing every woman on the planet is looking for, it's an excuse to need a larger size of outfit. I'd complain, but I'm afraid if I did, next time they'd install one of those little plastic beach ball valve things and tell me that in order for her to heal, I had to manually re-inflate her twice a day, and frankly, this is just too family friendly a column for me to finish this joke.
Anyway, as I mentioned, while they were doing that, I spent the day at work, interrupted about every seventy seconds by another phone call from the kids complaining about each other's behavior or asking if they could, just this once, pour the bottle of rubbing alcohol from the medicine cabinet into the sink and light it on fire. Or something... frankly after the third call, I stopped listening. And in this entertaining fashion, I passed the day in roughly the same time it would have taken me to hitchhike the entire length of the Great Wall of China via rickshaw until sometime in the early afternoon, when I received a phone call from the doctor, who told me everything had gone swimmingly and that Janet would be in recovery for "about an hour" after which they'd call me to come pick her up.
They got "about an hour" from the same Bob's Big Book o' Medical Understatements that they pulled "discomfort" and "procedure" from, and so it was that several hours later I got a call from a nice woman who announced she was from "same day" (which reassured me, I live in constant, paranoid fear whenever the phone rings that it's someone from the future) and that Janet was done recovering (if only) and that if I'd come over to the hospital, they'd make sure to have Janet ready to go when I got there. This, as I'm sure you've figured out, also came from the book.
And so I made my way back to the hospital and the first thing they did was they asked me for Janet's pin number. A PIN number! As if the hospital were now some giant, wife-dispensing ATM, which scared me a bit because if you deposit a twenty dollar bill into an ATM and then withdraw a twenty dollar bill, you do not get the same twenty back again. I’ve checked. Don't ask why. What if I didn't get the same wife back? Would my kids still call her "mommy"? And most importantly, would the new one continue to pretend to find these essays amusing?
But the worst of it is, the woman at the front desk was the same woman who had just called to tell me to come pick up Janet. So she knew I was coming, she knew who I was, but she wasn't prepared to even admit that Janet was present or a patient in the hospital unless I recited the correct four digit code to her. Which begs the question what would they have done if I hadn't had it? Would they have kept her? Would she, even now, be lying in a bed in the hospital, wondering why I'd abandoned her? Or would some other husband have come along with the right pin number and withdrawn her? And, most importantly, since they'd already called in the prescription for the Percocet to the pharmacy, could I have filled it anyway and had me a good old fashioned bachelor pad party, complete with five children under foot and a middle-aged body that handles "partying" the way a toilet paper hat handles "rain"?
But fortunately I had the PIN, and so I was able to withdraw my wife (astounding that they were able to feed her out through that little slot!) and bring her back home and keep her doped up so that she can no longer perform any task more complex than drooling without assistance, leaving me, in the evenings, to provide primary care for five children who have been free during the day to consume what I can only assume is 50 cans of "Jolt" brand cola each while under Janet's less than attentive eye.
I'm really proud of Janet, though, because she's not letting it get her down or stop her. She's not letting a little thing like major surgery get in the way of making difficult plans. It's the follow through that's leaving a bit to be desired. For instance, yesterday she decided that what she really wanted to make for dinner was calzones, a fairly labor intensive task. So she put all of the ingredients for the dough into the bread machine, got it going, and then announced, as the dough cycle completed, that she was way too tired. I was thus left with five starving children, a wad of dough roughly the size of "the Blob" from the 50s Italian cooking documentary of the same name and absolutely no interest what so ever in either making or consuming calzones.
But I made them, and even managed to get the kids to stop making disparaging comments about them long enough to actually eat them and ask for seconds (of which there were none).
I just wish I'd had the foresight to slip a Percocet in each one.
[NOTE: As you may have noticed, I don't mind "fictionalizing" (aka "lying about") events that happen in order to make these essays more amusing, but I do feel rather bad about the light in which I have unfairly portrayed my children. On the whole, they behaved admirably, and I can only hope that one day they will grow up to forgive me, if not for this essay, then at least for not saving them each one of the "Percocet" pills.]
Copyright © July 3, 2007 by Liam Johnson. http://liam-humor.blogspot.com