Next, we go to with the admitting room. The lady is polite, but too busy to talk. Maybe even too busy to listen.
When we get to the room, I’m still nervous. But not like I’ve been up to now. Mainly, I wish somebody would go ahead and take blood, before my parents leave. I know they’ll need to sooner or later. I’m not five anymore, but still, I’d feel better to get this out of the way.
It doesn’t take long to learn why the other girls are here. Kim’s sixteen. She’s been here six weeks recovering from a spinal fusion. Hopefully I won’t be here that long. Michelle and Jodi are about my age. Michelle’s a juvenile diabetic who’s recently developed Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The arthritis is so bad, she hasn’t been able to walk for a month. Jodi’s anorexic. She won’t even eat an egg, or a bowl of soup.
About four thirty, a lady resident doctor with a heavy accent comes in. I find out
she’s from the Ukraine. She takes a medical history on me. When Mom mentions things I don’t remember, I listen carefully, in case somebody starts asking the same questions when she’s not here.
When my parents leave, the resident doctor comes back. She starts asking the same questions all over again, just like I’d expect her to. If I’m gonna go through this fifteen times for anybody who asks, I should have a tape recorder. Before she leaves, she asks a weird question. ‘You are a girl, aren’t you?’
‘Of course.’ Why? She can’t take my word for it. I’m mortfied when she looks under the sheet.
‘No, you are not a male’" she says when she walks out.
In a little while, I ask for a wheelchair and go to the adolecent lounge.There’s nothing to do in the room, except sit and go crazy. When I go in, a couple of guys are shooting pool. Somebody’s playing Asteroids. Hall and Oates Wait for Me is on the radio. I’m not doing anything, just hanging around singing. I’m in the lounge about two hours when a nurse comes to find me. ‘Julie Rowe?’
‘That’s me’ I say, putting my hand up. We go back to the room. I talk about my family and my new school, and casually say, ‘I ‘m having a spinal fusion tomorrow’.
She helps me into bed and takes my vital signs. Finally, somebody draws blood. A few minutes later, I get a quick look at my I.D. Looking over at Kim, I say ‘ You won’t believe this. They made a mistake and put an M on my I.D. bracelet. I’m no M!’
This is too funny to keep to myself. Expecting that Mom will answer the phone, I say, ‘Guess what, you have just gained a son!’
Poor Aunt Nancy’s completely confused. Mom doesn’t appreciate the joke. ‘Just because somebody made a mistake doesn’t change what you are!"she snaps. Even if she’s too stressed to see the humor here, I ‘m glad to have something to laugh at .
Somebody comes in to do an EKG. It’ s a huge relief to find out there are no annoying little pricks like there with an EEG. Just a little Vaseline rubbed on me, so the electrodes stick better.
Right after this, around nine o’clock, I go for one last set of x-rays. Dr. G, must have some serious studying to do, to make sure everything.works just the way he wants it. By ten o’clock in the evening, I’m back in the room. An hour later, somebody comes in and asks, ‘Would you like a snack?’
‘No thanks,’ I say, ‘I’m fine.’
‘If you change your mind and you want something, you have until midnight.’she tells me.
Around one in the morning, I ‘m still awake, too anxious to sleep. The light from the television across the room doesn’t help anything.I ask Jodi, ‘Will you please turn it off?’
When she says,’No, I don’t want to,’ I get mad.
‘I’m having surgery in the morning, and I need some sleep.’ She doesn’t care.
Five minutes later, I pull the cord beside my bed, because there’s nothing else to do.‘I’m having surgery in the morning, but I can’t sleep’ In half a minute, a dark haired nurse comes in with a flashlight ‘I know I really should get some sleep, but I’m just too nervous.’
‘We could let you visit the nurses’ station, but we think it‘s better if you get some sleep.’ She gives me a sleeping pill and leaves. Luckily, it doesn’t take long to work,because somebody wakes me up around six in the morning.
A nurse walks in, slips a bedpan under me, and wipes something on my private parts. ‘What’s that?’ I ask.
‘It’s an antiseptic.’she says.
Kim‘s awake. She says, ‘You need to go if you can, but it’s gonna burn.’ I’m glad she warns me so I don’t get a nasty shock, but it makes me nervous. When I start to pee, I suddenly stop myself. Whatever’s in the antiseptic burns like crazy. "Ow, that really stings!"
I sit another five minutes, trying to relax, but I’m afraid to pee. Finally I say’I’m sorry, but I just can’t go, it hurts too much’ This concerns me, because I don’t want anything
to go wrong.
When it’s late enough that Mom and Dad should be here, I panic. What if they’re in an accident? Somebody takes me downstairs in the elevator. Maybe they’ll have to start surgery before my parents show up! It’s embarrassing, but I feel like having a temper tantrum. Fifteen times, I say to myself, ‘Don’t you dare cry!
Next is a nerve test. The anesthetist attaches electrodes to my scalp and everywhere else. For twenty minutes, I experience painful, almost convulsive twitching, as he turns dials on a large machine. It feels like a scene from Frankenstein. Before it’s over, I’m pleading with him to stop. When we finally finish, this man who’s bald on top, with thick glasses, holds me gently, to keep me from trembling. ‘It’s okay, Sweetheart, we’re through.’
When Dr. G.walks in, I’m as relieved as I’ve ever been in my life. ‘Boy, am I glad to see you!’ Now that he’s here, the anesthetist won’t kill me. Lucky for us both, I don’t know how much pain I’m in for yet! He’s the first familiar face I see today.
Mom and Dad are finally here.They’re not allowed in the operating room, so I get rolled outside for ten minutes. I’ve been so upset this morning, it seems like a year since I heard Mom’s voice.
"You finally made it. I’ve been really worried. Why are you so late?"
"We’re sorry Sweetheart," she says, "we ran into a blizzard, and we just couldn’t get here any faster. Maybe it’s a good thing we’re late, because it sure makes me feel better to see that they’ve got you all hooked up."
Even if Mom feels better I don’t. She could keep it to herself. Her saying this only seems to stir up the anxious thoughts I’ve been having for the last few months. "Mom, I’m worried, what if something goes wrong? What if this is the last time I see you?"
"Don’t worry Sweetheart, you’ll be okay, you’ll see."she says for the thousandth time.
"Are you sure?" In a firm, gentle voice, she says, "I’m sure, you’ll be alright."
Mom needs to believe this as much as I do. But she must have serious concerns herself, because she steps aside to speak with the doctor. She says to him, ‘She’s really nervous.’
Daddy doesn’t say a word. He just holds my hand until I go back into the operating room.
In half a minute, I get Sodium Pentothal. The anesthetist can tell I’m tense. He says, ‘You’re just going to feel a slight stick, it won’t be too bad.’ Unbelievably, it’s no worse than he says.
The last thing I ask Dr G. just to to satisfy my curiosity is, "Where are you from?’ He doesn’t have to think twice to realize that I’m asking about his wonderful brogue.
‘Ireland, My Dear.‘ He could be from anywhere and I’d trust him just as much. His voice is so soothing, he just might be able to put me to sleep all by himself, if I didn’t need to be out for more than ten minutes. Dr.G. is forty something, with chestnut brown hair, and bright blue eyes, that twinkle when he smiles. He almost always smiles. Personally, I think he’s as cute as Paul McCartney. Sometimes, I imagine what the Cracker Jack sailor would be like if he came to life.
When I get moved