Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Under the knife

A nasty little mole in a difficult spot. The GP referred me to a plastic surgeon. His rooms were a picture of elegance, upstairs in a handsome colonial mansion on the edge of the parklands. Rich wood panelling, gracious windows with lovely aspects, collections of artworks on the walls, classical music tinkling through the air...
Arriving for my surgery, it was a long wait in an overheated waiting room. But valuable for reading. Finally to the operating theatre, as spartan and ugly as the consulting suite was lavish. Off with my top and laid out on an operating table under huge lights in the centre of the room - looking at huge, ugly brown-painted doors. The surgeon gave me a local anaesthetic injection and asked me to hold some gauze over it while it took effect. And he vanished, as did his nurse. And for the next 15 or so minutes I lay there alone, my book out of reach, listening with increasing irritation to the perky strains of some ballet score. Around me was a mass of equipment which, I realised as I passed time gazing at it, was largely for medical emergency. Oxygen cylinders, emergency stretcher, defibrillator... It all loomed large. "I'm only here for a mole," I reassured myself. I could hear voices in the next room and wondered if it was another operating room. I had images of an operations factory. And I wondered why it was that the medical world always had this way of unnerving and dehumanising its patients with this sort of solitude. My mind drifted back to the horror story of the birth of my first son - the last time I was left alone in an operating theatre. Jacked up in stirrups with an epidural which had only partially worked, ongoing contractions, and no sign of delivery after 18 increasingly frightening hours.
Finally the surgeon returned in his whites and busied himself with the hand sterilising rituals. Lovely hands, of course. And he painted my breast bone in hibitane and centred a hole in a green cloth over the mole and told me to look away. I did not have to be told twice. It did not hurt exactly. But it did not not hurt. It felt. And it felt nasty. After cauterising, he proceeded with the stitching and that felt really nasty. Piercing and dragging. I felt as if the skin of my chest was being hoisted. I felt like the performance artist, Stelarc, being raised in an art gallery on meat hooks. It was a particularly repugnant sensation. Disproportionate, considering the size of the mole. I did as I do at the dentist, went into "it-has-to-finish-some-time" mode - and, of course, it did. And I went off into a day punctuated by involuntary shudders of revulsion as the sensations were recalled.
So much unpleasantness for such a little thing.

No comments: