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To the Anesthesiologist Making Jokes Before My Brain Surgery

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An open letter to my anesthesiologists:

Every single day you walk into work and treat people who are sick.

Most people you only see once and they are “fixed.”

You put them to sleep, a quiet slumber. It’s so quick on the patient end. It feels like a blink. It’s not restful. We wake up disoriented and very confused, in pain, in a different room, with different people telling us, “Your surgery is done now” and “everything is fine.”

A recent experience – my ninth surgery in three years – has left a little bit of a foul taste in my mouth, other than the awful anesthetic that lingers for the usual three to four days.

Due to my chronic illness I am considered a “surgery pro,” if you will. I have had three major back surgeries and six brain surgeries, most recently being in March 2017.

I have three shunts in my body that at any given time can and will stop working, therefore requiring more surgeries.

With each and every surgery I am extremely nervous. I’ve gone so far as having debilitating anxiety attacks prior to a few of my surgeries for fear that I may not come home to my family.

Before every surgery there is the customary meet and greet with the anesthesiologist, and this last surgery was no different. He came in, checked my vitals, made sure I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything and checked his boxes on his clipboard. At the end of that meeting he said, “I’m sure you don’t have any questions, you’ve done this how many times now?” He chuckled and walked out of the room.

A joke to him maybe, but it felt incredibly insensitive to someone who was about to undergo brain surgery.

It made me wonder: If I were to have another surgery, would I be met with the same lack of compassion because my chronic illness has forced me to be on their operating table?

Anesthesiologists need to understand that I did not choose to be sick. It is not my choice to be having a conversation with them about where my last IV site was or when my last bowel movement was.

You are putting me to sleep for a little while and that is so scary! It doesn’t matter if it’s my first time or my hundredth time. I’m frightened – every single time!

I’m not asking you to sing me a lullaby, but holding my hand and telling me I’ll be OK isn’t above your pay grade.

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Thinkstock photo via YakobchukOlena.

Originally published: May 15, 2017
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