THE BLOG

Ask Me About My Gall Bladder

03/30/2011 12:51 pm 12:51:23 | Updated May 30, 2011

The week before last, like any week around here, I had plans. Not grand plans, nothing major: no one was getting married, I wasn't expecting any babies to pop out of me, President Obama was still ignoring my invitation to come over for gluten-free pasta and Tasti-D-Lite. But they were plans, and they were mine, and it would have been nice to see them through.

Then my giant gall bladder of unspeakable agony and terror decided to bilk my insurance company by insisting on coming out, like, immediately.

I didn't know this was what was wrong, at first. Like all good American hospitals, the one I went to gave me several misdiagnoses, unnecessary tests, red herring prescriptions, and even discharged me back home before, four days later, I was told my gall bladder needed to come out. And my stupid insurance company is totally going to pay for it! Suckers!

I have to say, spending nearly a week in the hospital and having surgery was way more fun than any stupid plans I may have had, like St. Patrick's Day parties and Purim carnivals.

During my visit to Gall Bladder Spa and Resort, I learned that everyone who works at a hospital can generally be divided into two groups.

Group 1: We Have No Idea What's Going On

These are the ones who kept promising to "find out" or "ask [my] doctor" or "check on that" for me, and of whom I never saw hide nor hair ever again. I can only assume that the selfless act of pure generosity of offering to acquire information for me is so great and awesome that after they left my hospital room they ascended bodily to Buddhahood.

Here is a sample of things I asked that were so far out of the realm of helpfulness that hours and sometimes days (no joke) went by before I got my answers:

  • "I haven't eaten in 48 hours. Is it OK if I have something to eat? Maybe Jello? Anything?"
  • "I have a massive, blinding headache from all the morphine you pumped into me last night. Might I get a Tylenol?"
  • "What time will my surgery be?"

You know. Just your basic hospital chit-chat. Nothing major.

The absolute pinnacle of this group's mentality happened on Tuesday morning, the day after my endoscopy (where we checked to make sure my pain wasn't being caused by anything else, like acid reflux, ulcers, secret babies, aliens, testicular cancer, Legionnaire's Disease, eyeball detachment, ingrown toenails, or rabbit flu) and the day before my surgery. In hospital terms I believe this is called "sitting on your ass day," because nothing is going on that requires you to do anything other than give massive amounts of blood to the butcher who calls himself the phlebotomist, and be checked occasionally for vital signs. And by "occasionally" I mean every half hour. Just in case my blood pressure or temperature has changed drastically in the last 30 minutes.

So, Tuesday. The day after the endoscopy, the day before the gall bladder surgery. For five hours nurses hustle about paging my surgeon to come and talk to me about, you know, my upcoming surgery. Which could be today! But will probably be tomorrow! We don't know! And we can't allow you to eat until we know when you'll be doused with general anesthesia! Party! Five hours of me cornering nurses and demanding answers, five hours of being told, "I just paged him," five hours of waiting and wondering and threatening to yank out my own IV and go home. At one point my doctor from the day before actually hid from me because I had become that patient.

Five hours, several angry nurses, and one frightened doctor later, an orderly came up to our floor and demanded, "Who keeps paging me? I'm not surgery!"

Aaaaand, scene.

Group 2: Since You Are A Patient Here, I Assume You Are Both Psychic And Medically Trained

This one goes out to the surgeon -- the one with no name tag -- who came into my room shortly after my endoscopy and said, with no prelude or introductions, "So, let's talk about your surgery tomorrow."

Me: "Um, what?"

Dr. No-Name: "Hasn't your surgeon spoken to you yet about your gall bladder surgery tomorrow?"

Me: "I have a surgeon?"

Dr. No-Name: "OK, I'll send him in to talk to you, then."

Nineteen hours later yes, "my" surgeon came in to talk to me. A surgeon of my very own to love and squeeze, called George. Or Dr. F, as it were. Dr. F. was nice enough -- and, per my husband's instructions for all surgeons, tall, dashing, and Middle Eastern -- but he seemed to labor under the twin beliefs that a) I was having fun at the hospital and in no hurry to go home, and b) I already knew what time my surgery would be and what it would entail, even though the only person to come and speak to me about it so far was Dr. Unhelpful No-Name.

Dr. F.: "I want you on a soft foods diet until midnight tonight."

Me: "What does that mean?"

Dr. F.: "You know. Soft foods."

Me: "Mashed potatoes?"

Dr. F.: "Yes."

Me: "Ice cream?"

Dr. F.: "Sure."

Me: "What else?"

Dr. F.: "You know. Soft foods."

The nurse didn't know what a "soft foods diet" meant, which, long story short, is how I got yelled at for having the gall (pun intended) to enjoy sprinkles on my Tasti-D-Lite the night before my surgery.

Husband: "If they have to delay your surgery because of sprinkles, I'm divorcing you."

So here I am, nearly a week later, still recovering physically. Emotionally I'm pretty sure I'm scarred for life. It might be fun, though, to trick my insurance company into paying for my brother and I to swap kidneys. You know, for a hoot.