Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Cup By Any Other Name...

Greetings, gentle readers. I come to you tonight, swathed mummy-like, from inside a surprisingly long Ace elastic bandage. Is this an indication of how Fashion-Forward I am? But, of course not.

Yesterday I underwent minor surgery intended to remove any doubt [as well as dubious tissue] regarding a recent mammogram/biopsy procedure. All seems to have gone well, and I have all the narcotics I need for pain relief...and, they DO come in handy.

As often happens, this excursion included both highlights and lowlights. I'll begin with the former.

Prior to leaving for the outpatient surgery center yesterday morning, Mr. H. prayed that we might come across a Christian caregiver at the hospital. This has been known to happen, and occurred repeatedly during Ben's month-long hospital stay two years ago. Still, it was a wonderful encouragement to recognize the nurse anesthetist who came into my 'holding' room...a delightful and highly competent professional we've known from church and violin lessons. Besides taking time to visit with us, catch up on our respective kids, and introduce us to the anesthesiologist, Polly was very supportive and informative, and took time to pray with us before I was, literally, rolled away.

I have noted before how utterly helpless and vulnerable one can feel from the vantage point of an operating table...when something is amiss with oneself and youu have no choice but to look up into the faces of everyone else as they look down at you, somewhat ominously. So, there was a bit of a comfort factor to recognize her eyes above one of the several blue surgical masks in the room, as well as spying the surgeon. Due to the miracles of modern anesthesiology, the next thing I knew I was in the recovery room, trying to 'come to.'

Now, on to the non-highlights, which occurred before surgery. First of all, it is not dreadful, but certainly not delightful to have oneself 'graffittied' with a Sharpie pen to ensure that the correct anatomical region is matched with the correct doctor, etc. But, better safe than sorry. I presume this logic also underlies the quick audio recording that was made in the surgical suite just before it's 'lights out' for the patient: "Would you please give us your name? Your date of birth? And what are you here for, Kathleen?"

A little surreal, but not pointless.

However, BEYOND surreal, and --literally pointless--was the Medical Supply [and I use the term loosely] employed following my needle localization procedure. Since it's not likely that the general reader is familiar with this, I will briefly summarize. Needle localization involves having an ultrasound technician locate with a transponder the area of tissue, etc. that will comprise the surgery site. Once the appropriate area appears on the ultrasound screen, a radiologist then mysteriously appears with Lidocaine and a specially wired needle.

Using the ultrasound as a visual guide, he then inserts the needle into the target area and magically injects a fish-hook type device therein, which acts as a physical marker. Because of the hook feature, it is stablized in the site. Try to think of this as something other than human.

Here, however, is where the production value of this scenario plummets. So outlandish was it, that it never occurred to me how truly crude it would be.

Allow me to illustrate.

What I Was Told: "Following the needle localization, they will cover the area with a cup, and then cover you, so can preserve a little modesty."

What I Imagined: After deporting myself as maturely as I could during this small ordeal, I would be helped into a sitting position and have my left breast comfortably and discreetly covered with a smooth, sterile, and hopefully warm vessel, similar to a dessert cup. Not that this would be on the top of my list of Fun Adventures, but still, better than..

What Actually Happened: I squiggled myself into an upright position on the table, trying to keep track of the single flannel blanket and numerous crinkly paper sheets. While thus engaged, I realized that the gleaming wire now protruding from my stern was rather hard to ignore, and yet not anything I wanted to fixate on. But, oh well, at least I would soon have my comfy cup to preserve my last shred of modesty.

Um, no. You could be forgiven for thinking, as did I, that the technician was making a weak attempt at humor when she reached for a paper drinking cup...the fountain size. However, this was not humorous. It was not expected. It was not appreciated. However, I have no doubt it WAS cost-effective.

As I watched, my mouth agape, this competent young woman proceeded to fold down strips of the paper cup rim into makeshift flanges...emphasis on 'shift.' Because they did. During downtime, someone had carefully snipped 8 or so cuts in the rim of the cup, extending down about an inch or two. It was then supposed that she would simultaneously hold, fold, and tape this paper catastrophe to my reluctant chest....suffice it to say, I had to hold the cup in place myself. However, I was mistaken in believing I would be covering any sensitive parts of my own anatomy...I was left 'hanging out' while the localization needle was carefully encased in a mutilated soda cup.

Interestingly, as part of a new patient satisfaction scheme(I assume), during my initial assessment, I was asked to read five 'value' words on a whiteboard, and to indicate which was the most important to me during my 'hospital experience.' I don't recall all five, but they were along the lines of 'friendliness,' 'feeling respected,' etc. I chose 'professional skills of caregivers.'

But, had I known then what I know now...I might have suggested they scale back the award-winning architectural details in the hosptial concourse and splurge on sensible and appropriate procedural supplies. Going through this adventure again is definitely NOT on my bucket list.

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