Thursday, November 5, 2015

Of a decidedly more feminine nature - not for the delicately minded

I haven't written, probably in a few years, as life had fallen in to an certain flow and just continued moving along as it should... Recently, however, there's been a bit of a turn and these past few weeks have been the source of a great deal of anxiety. To quickly bring you up to speed - I've got uterine fibroids which will require a series of medical procedures. The first, a D&C, will allow for diagnostic testing before the next step It is done on an out patient basis in what they call a 'sanitorium'.... I've always associated that word with a place for the criminally insane. Seeing my appointment set there didn't do much to calm my nerves.

It - from start to finish - was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I was alternately in a heightened state of stress and under heavy drugs when you read my notes below. Yes, I started writing as I had to get my mind off what where I was and what was going on. Please keep in mind - these tests and this care, which is medically necessary, are those that are provided by Planned Parenthood in a caring and supportive environment. Even with the differences described below, I knew that the doctors and nurses were there with care, concern, and without judgement; I cannot begin to imagine how much harder the process would have been had I not been able to obtain affordable, immediate, and shame-free care for a truly invasive diagnostic procedure.

I've walked in to a very bright light room - stark, actually with four beds and two cots, each with crisp lavender bedding, five of them occupied by women of varying ages, all younger than me. The women are readily apparent as there aren't any curtains dividing the room.

A wardrobe stands next to the door. The nurse opened it to show me an empty shelf and then handed me a white gown and told me to change. I was the sixth and last person and didn't know where to go as there wasn't a changing center. As she left I asked for the bathroom and was given directions. After figuring out how to put the gown on (white of all things! white when, if you're not bleeding now, you will be soon!) I came back out to put my things on the shelf. These gowns have one tie, at the top, and that's it. It felt like a juggling act, trying to open the wardrobe, put my things away, and keep myself decent. I'm not a good juggler. And all eyes were on me. This was a very uncomfortable start.

My bed was the last cot, wedged against the wall between the wardrobe and the bathroom. 'Cot' may be a generous term. The top of the mattress barely reached mid-shin. The coils of the mattress were visible through the sheets. But the blanket was warm. I didn't want to lay down at first as it was a bit poky. I got over it and ended up curled up in the blanket with my head sunk deep in the middle of the giant pillow. I didn't want to see anyone or to be seen. My cramps hurt. Obviously, feeling a bit vulnerable right now.

One by one we're called out of bed. We had done the check in and signed paperwork prior to being brought to the room but apparently they do the payment after everyone is tucked in. One by one, six women have to climb back out of bed, find their wallets and conduct the transaction while their bare butts are hanging out of the mini-gowns - that one tie makes sense actually as it's not just a mini-gown on me but on everyone, no matter how skinny - barely covered the back and your bum is free and clear of everything that could possibly provide a bit of modesty
I've been laying there wondering if this is just pre-op and where do we go for post? There's no monitoring equipment in this room and not enough room to navigate a bed so I don't know what's in store. OK. The door just opened. Apparently I missed girl #1 being taken out but she's just been brought back in. This is also post-op. She's in a wheelchair, though, and has to stand to be transferred to her bed. It's not an easy process and she's got a full size bed. I've no idea how they're going to do this for me on this rinky dinky cot.

When I'm sitting in my bed I can't see the door. The wardrobe is to my back. I see the door to the toilet and a window. When I turn my head I can see the faces of a few of the women. Nobody looks comfortable. It's dead silent in here.

The lady came for me - my turn to pay. I gave her some money and she needed change. She said something abruptly, it took me a moment to process, and in that second the middle bed gave me a translation. Her speaking and my thanks brought a momentary lapse of tension with a few smiles being shared but, now, back to my cot, downstairs, while they're still upstairs in the real beds.

The only other cot girl is maybe in her early/mid 20s. She's been chattering away on her tablet like it's a phone, for a while. She makes me thing of someone you'd find in WalMart at 3 am. She's got pretty, strong features but a coarseness comes through that undermines her physical beauty. And a lot of makeup. We were told not to wear any and I'm not, but she's got a face and a half full at least. She's the only person I can see easily while laying down.

I've not had any pill, shot or injection to start the dilation and it's after 1. My pick-up is scheduled for 3 so I'm a bit anxious about getting things going. I don't know how they're going to get dilation, put me out, wake me up, make sure I'm not still bleeding and decide it's safe for me to leave all in less than 2 hours. Along with all of these other women, too.

The only sound in this room is the rustle of the pages when I turn this notebook... and the woman nearest me, she's on the verge of tears, she can't sit still and I hear her blanket move with her anxiety. I think she's the only one with underwear still on.

I'd really like to just sleep through this whole experience, starting about 20 minutes ago, but unless that sleep is natural I'm not sure that'll happen as nothing is going on. An IV with some sort of anti-anxiety or relaxer or something would be really nice. I can hear some noises behind me but I can't see what's going on and my cramps hurt too much to contort in to a better position.

I tend to think of a difference between an institution and institutionalization. This is more more on the institutionalization side. Not undermining the integrity of the institution I'm in, but this is far more institutionalization, but like institutionalization lite, I suppose.

There are women here who want to be mothers but are losing babies - or have lost them already, women who don't want to be mothers, and women like me who no longer could be if they wanted to. It's palpable. The emotions, the greater impact, the implications... My presence, my condition, this step and the next - not my choice. Not what I wanted. This is not where I want to be and so far from what I want to be doing. I understand the necessity but I just want to skip ahead and be done with it.

I think the first girl just woke up. The one I saw wheeled in in her chair. She's a bit chatty and sounds high - high pitched, giggly, and just plain out of it. But, being on this side of it, that's not so bad... she's not miserable. She fell asleep again.

The tablet girl is back now and she's moaning. Not cool. Sh'es not awake and this is not cool.

It's very quiet again. There are two girls sleeping, one girl is out, two girls are silent and then there's me. I just farted. I guess it's better now than in surgery.

You can hear them in the other room calling the girl's name - I don't know what it is, actually but they're calling her name over and over... you don't get a gradual wake up here. Your procedure's over? WAKE UP, you gotta get yourself off the table, into the chair and then out of the chair and in to bed. (?!?!?) Wow.

HOLY COW. I'm back. I've had more than my fair share of general anesthesia but I've never had one that I came out of like this... I normally don't' remember anything, any of the hallucinations or whatever, but this time, on the waking up end, I was FB messaging with some friends and the Dr kept popping up in messenger and it was a bit frustrating till I saw she was telling me to wake up... so I did.

I do not remember anything after that but I'm in my bed now... cot, still. And I hurt. Worse than the cramps.A lot worse.

I think I fell asleep again. The lady in the middle who did the translation is back and I swear she never fell asleep or something but whatever they gave her kicked her mouth in to overdrive.

I fell asleep again. Woke up to translation girl talking, still, in Czech, about Yosemite, Las Vegas, San Diego, Obama and WalMart. For a bit I thought I was hallucinating again so I sat up and asked for clarification yes.... they were all talking about the US and I joined in a bit... amazing how drugs loosen the tongue.
Honestly, though, I have no idea how she is so awake. I think I've fallen asleep a few more times and she hasn't shut up as far as I can tell. For a second time I thought maybe it was me, but I don't understand a lot of the words I'm hearing and I don't think my brain would hallucinate in a nonsense language, foreign I can go for, with words I know, but stuff I don't know... I'm not sure brains work like that. The nurse just came in and told her to be quiet as we must sleep... I don't think it's just me anymore.

There are only 5 of us now. The teary eyed girl went last. She was beautiful and the entire time she's looked like she's struggling not to cry. My heart really goes out to her. Whatever she's going through her struggle was clearly printed on her face.

It still hurts.

I've slept some more. The last girl is back and now the nurse and doctor are in. One by one, they come to each bed, spread your legs... yep, you're bleeding, ok, no sex, no baths, no blah blah, get a fever - call, goodbye. No privacy. I've literally got blood dripping down my legs. Actively, still. Got up to get my clothes and find that I'm more efficient than Hansel and Gretel... and yet it's time to go. All of us. We're all still bleeding, Six women, half naked and bloody, bleeding, trying to find their underwear and get dressed, while in discomfort - emotional, physical, psychological and quite possibly, for some, spiritual as well. This is so abrupt and feels premature - like maybe, hey - shouldn't we stay until we're all wide awake and not actively bleeding this much? Actually, I think I'm bleeding more than everyone else - everything I've touched is now stained. That sounds so biblical.

The doctors and nurses are efficient and pleasant enough but the absence of privacy I find shocking. It feels so clinical, like I'm but a cog in their machine - and in truth that's what I am. This is a typical Tuesday afternoon, kind of like the group from the rest home that goes to the movies every Tuesday afternoon... you'll see the horde climb off the bus, sell them tickets and snacks, maybe one or two need an enhancer for their hearing aid, and then you'll clean up after them but they, as individuals, don't really exist. It's just what happens on Senior Special day.

I'm home now. It still hurts. Right up behind my belly button. It hurts. And cramps. I know I've got another surgery in the future, a bigger one, one that requires actual hospitalization and extended recovery time, and I'm torn between wanting to start researching my local options and not wanting to think about it at all. I'm going to go with the latter for now as there's plenty of time for all the anxiety that research will bring. And right now, I hurt. Not too bad but enough. But that was expected. I have no complaints about the quality of care today. I think, rather, the setting in which I got it sort of knocked me out of my head space so much that in a sense it was easier for me than if everything had been more familiar and comfy, cozy and catered.... except that then I'd have gotten an IV and drugs a whole lot sooner. Maybe this way wasn't so bad though. I survived. Unscarred and unscathed. Literally.