Angel in the Pre-op

While I am writing in the genre of interesting true storeies, another one comes to mind.  In December of ’09 I needed surgery on my back.  It was during another one of the times when my several medical conditions seemed to all decide to exacerbate at once, and I fell and ruptured a disk.  The orthopedic neurosurgeon who was to do my surgery, was highly recommended and very organized and thorough in all aspects of the surgery, from pre-op assessment, to follow-up after.  So on the week of sugery, he has the patient come in for their pre0-op work-up, and a class with an RN, to educate the patients on just what they can expect, what to do and not do after suregery, and especially what to call him about in the days immediatly after. As a mom who isn’t done raising her kids,   I was very concerned about the risks of the surgery, as it would be the first anesthesia I’d had since the narcolepsy was diagnosed, and besides that, it was my spine!    The whole pre-op session was a couple of hours long, and there were only 2 other peope in the class who would be having surgery by this same doctor.  The older fellow introduced himself as Dr. Benjamin McDaniel, and he told us that he would be going to a local nursing home for several weeks after his surgery because he had no one to help him at home.  He was quite personable.   Everything about going to doctors is very anxiety-laden for me, since I have had years worth of bad experiences in pursuing diagnosis.  After the class, I went back to the pre-op testing waiting area, waiting for my turn with the nurses and doctor.  And Dr. Benjamin soon came in and sat down, and struck up a conversation with me.   He told me that I reminded him of his now-deceased daughter-in-law, whose name happened to be the same as mine.  He told me that his son and she had 2 teenage boys when she died, and that as their Grandfather, he had concerns for how they’d all fare after her death, because he felt that had his own wife died and left him with 2 teens, he wouldn’t have known how in the world to raise them right on his own.  But he went on to say, my son is a busy lawyer, but do you know, he made those kids a priority, and they thrived, and today one has his Masters and the other is working on his Bachelors degree.  Dr. McDaniel talked about his wife and how much he loved her and depended on her strength, and that she was his world, but that he had survived it when she too passed away a couplel of years back, and he’d realized life does, indeed go on. He knew the pediatrician who had cared for our first son (also named Benjamin) when he was born.  He also told me that our doctor had scheduled his surgery for the same day as mine, and that he had chatted with him in the doctor’s lounge only that  morning. When the nurse called my name, and I got ready to get up, I realized that he had held my hand the whole time we were talking.

A week later, at my follow-up appointment, I asked our doctor how Dr. McDaniel’s surgery had gone.  The surgeon said “Who?”  I said, “Dr. McDaniel, you did his surgery the same day as mine.  He went to the nursing home afterward,   he chatted with you in the doctors lounge a couple of days before…… The surgeon’s response:  “Never heard of him”.

Now,  I was at one time an outpatient surgical RN.  I know this for certain:  a doctor does not do surgery on another doctor and not remember every single aspect of that doctor’s case.  I left scratching my head that day, and wondering if maybe, just maybe, I had entertained “angels unaware”.  In fact there had been several other aspects of that pre-op test morning that were striking.  First off, I love to hear a bell choir.  When I had walked into the cavernous lobby of the hospital that December morning, I was greeted by the beautiful sound of Christmas carols played on the bells.  Also, when I had asked about seeing the anesthesiologist to discuss my fears about anesthesia with narcolepsy, the nurses had looked at the name and got dubious expressions, and one said, we will page and see if we can get him up here, but sometimes they are just too tied up to come.  But the doctor had come right away, and had pulled up a chair like he had all the time in the world.  When I told him I was worried about the anesthesia risks with Narcolepsy, he told me that he does it all the time, and he addressed my every concern, and even said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”  When I said no, he shook my hand, patted me on the shoulder, looked me in the eye and said “don’t worry about a thing, you are in good hands”, then he left.  When I looked at the nurses, they were both standing there with their mouthes hanging open, and one said “I don’t know who you are, but we have NEVER been able to get that doctor to come up here to talk with a patient!”  And then later, when there was some missing records that were still needed for my pre-op file and had not been obtained, despite several calls on my part, I happened to know where my doctor’s nurse had gone after my class, (she was giving an in service on some new equipment” so I went in search of her, and not only did she jump on the phone and make a few stern calls on my behalf, she also gave me her personal number and told me to call her again if I had questions and needed anything.

And on the day of the surgery, after all that, I was totally at peace, and get this:  Usually I am an easy stick, but 6 nurses could not get my IV started, so the Nurse Anesthetist came in to do it.  She sent everyone else out of the cubicle and she spoke to me in low tones and said “I have never met another nurse who has narcolepsy.  I have it too, but I don’t tell anyone around here for fear they might think I can’t do my job”.   I can’t think of anyone I would want handling my anesthesia than another human being who has lived narcolepsy and would recognize right away if something narcolepsy-related was going on!

Isn’t God amazing?

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