There ain't much dignity in a backless gown and anesthesia, no siree. About the best you can say of it is that you have the blessing of unconsciousness for a spell, until one wakes up and comes back to the world. When it happened to me earlier this month, my first coherent thought was: I hope no one can see my junk.
Because naturally the first thing one should be worried about after being knocked out and "worked on" is how strangers might judge one's 'nards.
Not surprising given the amount of pain killers coursing through my system, I suppose. My modesty concerns arose from the confusion I felt over not being sure if there were blankets over my legs. I could not quite raise my head yet, and my eyes---when they opened at all---could not focus enough. I managed to perceive dimly enough that the recovery room I was in was busy, noisy and crowded.
A few minutes passed. Feeling of a sort gradually returning to my cold limbs. Thankfully not so much that I could have felt the necessary violence inflicted upon my lower right belly, but just enough that I then felt the blankets on my legs. I carried on a conversation of sorts with the care nurse responsible for overseeing my groggy self. I do not recall what we talked about but I do remember making her laugh.
Hopefully not by uncorking some relatively harmless but embarrassing personal anecdote, but what are you going to do?
More minutes passed. Awareness began to increase as I could now keep my eyes open for more than two seconds. The sounds of the place began to sink in. Beeping machines. Moans from the other recovering souls coming out of surgery. The incredible range and depth of noises produced by humans in pain and under stress was mind-boggling. It was a testament to the effectiveness of the medications administered to me that I was not bothered very much by some of what I heard.
I was not bothered much by the sight of inert bodies being wheeled in and out of the room, either. That is, until the "new guy" was brought in directly across the aisle from where I lay. The poor gent had some sort of stomach surgery. He was hooked up to more tubes and wires than I was by far, including the dreaded stomach tube. That sort of thing gives me a case of the yammering fantods to merely think about, much less see it in real life.
And there it was, big as day, and in my field of vision. I could not get up to walk away. Even my options to turn my head were limited. I did the best I could, and tried to look every where but there. It proved nearly impossible.
I kept my eyes closed a bit, but the constant noise and questions kept making them pop open. I had to answer questions from my nurse, and I could not shut out the dialogue transpiring between the stomach patient and his nurse. I tried not to look, but lawd, it was the proverbial train wreck.
I saw things that, while not earth-shattering, are for most purposes better left unseen. The poor fellow was in a lot of discomfort, and I know he wanted that tube gone, gone, gone. After seeing it in action, I wanted it gone, too. Or me out the door.
Maybe it was the pain medications, or maybe it is just that I have gained a better grip on empathy as I have gotten older, but either way I felt pity and sympathy for that patient. I watched him wince and groan while the nurses and doctors did their thing. I tried not to look at the tube and its contents as it too fulfilled its purpose. But it was then I had a revelation.
Laying on my own gurney, afloat on a raft of opiates, I felt kinship to the people around me, the sick, the damaged, and the healthy charged with their care. The difference between those in pain and those managing that pain is only a matter of fortune and degree. I set aside my discomfort and reveled in the humanity of it all.