August 2010

Senior Slant:
Overkill

by Hilda Maston


The smiling nurse showed me into a small cubical with a padded bench and handed me a gown.

"Take off all your clothes and put this gown on," she directed. "I'll be back in a few minutes.”

I protested, "I'm just having a toenail taken off; he's using a local. You must have me mixed up with someone else."

The nurse left without a sign that she had heard me.

I disrobed and muttered under my breath. Feeling strange and uncomfortable in the tied-in-the-back gown, I sat on the padded bench, waiting for the nurse to return.

"Now we will check your blood pressure and temp," she said as she ushered me from the cubical. "We already have the results of your EKG and the blood test, so we can continue."

"But," I began. "I'm just….”

She interrupted me, "Take this pen and write 'yes' on your right leg and 'no' on your left leg.”

Again, I protested, "I am just having a local, I can tell the doctor which toe it is."

She didn't seem to hear me. Looking at her clipboard she said, "You have taken nothing by mouth since midnight, is that right?"

"Yes but," I said. (I was really getting tired of saying yes but.)

She interrupted me with, "You have someone to drive you home?"

Again I agreed. I didn't even try to set her straight about my toe.

She disappeared.

When she returned she led me to a big-time operating room. It was chilly in there, and bright, white light poured down from the huge overhead lamps.

One of the nurses placed a stool so that I could get up on the operating table. Three nurses began bustling around me, putting on a blood pressure cuff and EKG stickers. One put an IV needle in my arm.

I protested again, “I am just getting a toenail taken off. He is going to use a local. Is all this stuff necessary?”

Everyone carried on as if I hadn't said a word.

My surgeon came in looking like something out of Star Trek in his scrubs and mask.

“Dr. Watters, may I watch?” I asked.

“No, we have to drape the area. I don't think that would be practical.”

I felt a slight pinch on my big toe — then nothing. The operation had begun.

Ten minutes passed. The low murmur of voices, the taped music coming from the speakers, and the beep-beep of the machinery made the operating room seem quite cozy.

Dr. Watters stood up. “All done,” he said. The nurses unhooked me from the various apparatus.

I started to get up off the table. One of the nurses laid a restraining hand on my arm.

“Lie still,” she said as others drew a gurney alongside the table and began to transfer me onto it.

“But, but, but ….” I sputtered, sounding like a cheap motorboat. “I can walk. I'm OK. I just had a local.”

They paid no attention to me and wheeled me into the recovery room. I spent the next half-hour looking at really sick people and wondering what the heck I was doing there.

Finally, the recovery room nurse came over and asked me some more questions.

She then helped off the gurney and told me I could stand.

Free at last! I was escorted to a small cubical and told I could get dressed.

In my own clothes once again, I felt less like a patient and more like a person.

Then came more questions and more admonitions: don't drive for 24 hours, see your doctor in seven days, let us know if you run a temp, etc., etc.

“Thank you,” I said. “Can I go now?”

“Of course,” said the nurse as she took my arm in an iron grip. “Your escort and I will help you to the car.”

“I really don't need any help, I just had a toenail taken off, and they used a local. I‟m fine.”

Ignoring my words, she put me into the car as though I was a fragile, breakable object.

As we drove home, I had to shake my head at the wonders of modern medicine.

When the bill came, I did more than shake my head!

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