It’s Called a Heart (Part 3)
It’s Called a Heart (Part 3)
Read: It’s Called a Heart (Part 1) and (Part 2)
Wow-Sorry, getting this story out may actually take as long as the acutal surgery (5 hours).
Finally, the doctors weren’t messing around, they wanted to schedule me for surgery as soon as possible (we had good insurance-kidding-we did, but that’s an industry joke to take patients with good insurance first-it almost never really happens). My mother and father were checking me into Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh the day prior to my surgery. The first stop was blood draw, to make sure I wasn’t pregnant (I was still a virgin-mouth overdeveloped everything else underdeveloped) or on drugs. The nurse called my name to take me back, and my mom started to get up with me. I politely told her I was ok on my own for this part. I completely understand why they didn’t want to leave my side, but for some reason I felt the need to assert strength, for them. I never cried in front of them, the entire time.
The nurse, walking me back explained that they needed to take six vials of blood. ‘Six?’ I remember thinking, well, it’s my lucky number and always looking for ‘signs’; but I was concerned that I wasn’t sure I had that much blood in my entire body. After the first vial, I told her I was getting warm, nauseated and seeing stars. She said we only had one vile and would need to carry on. Before I could get the next word out, I was—out. Out, cold on the floor. I awoke to a nurse apologizing (holding smelling salts in her hand but not under my nose), my mother, at my side, helping me up; and, my father screaming, ‘Jesus Christ, what kind of nurse lets a patient pass out, and why the hell would you take six vials on someone her size?’
They were already so scared, that finding me slumped on the ground wasn’t really instilling much confidence in the hospital. I was checked into the pediatric wing of the hospital and had a really cute 7 year old roommate who had spent the greater part of her life in and out of the hospital for cancer treatment. It was heart breaking. My mom, as did her mother, stayed in our room that night. She was scheduled for more surgery in the morning. I had a ‘problem’ that was going to be ‘fixed’. I’d be all better or dead, but, fixed. This little girl fought every single day of her life, for her life and her strength and courage were like nothing I’ve ever seen since.
The morning of surgery I was instructed to take a bath (it would be the last one I was allowed to take for six months or my last ever, depending on how the surgery went). The nurse offered to shave my pubic area for me. I told her that while I appreciated her efforts I was pretty sure she should have at least offered to first buy me dinner, and that I could handle it*. I close the bathroom door, alone on the other side.
*Before you have surgery especially if you’re going to have a urinary catheter, they shave you. It was thought partly to reduce the risk of infection and partly for easy access. I can tell you that having seen some crazy pubic hair as a device rep, I can totally understand why they suggest it’s done. Yikes! People over the age of 60 have no grooming skills. That’s going in my prenup for sure. After surgery for fear of infection at the surgical site, no baths only showers (for about six months).
The final moments in the bathroom were a welcomed relief as I tried to prepare myself for the unknown. I looked up on the wall and there was a prayer from the Sisters of Mercy (I was in a Catholic hospital which happened to also be the name of a group that sang a song I really liked (Corrosion), which made me laugh really hard thinking about these nuns on the wall singing this New Age song at a karaoke bar.) Since I look for signs in everything this was clearly one and God had a sense of humor. Phew!
Having just made the transition from teenager back to newborn in the pubic area (it was 1990, we trimmed, the bald trend was later), I climbed into the hottest water I have ever felt, but never felt. I was numb. I closed my eyes feeling like I was going to pass out (thanks to the blood nurse, I had a frame of reference) and with my eyes closed I felt a calmness that can only be explained by some higher power taking over. I’ve never shared this moment with anyone; but, it was an out of body experience where I was looking down on my body sitting there in the tub, surrounded what felt like the warmest love I’d ever felt, and a knowingness that I was going to be ok.
The next think I remember is my mom and dad are wheeling my bed down to the OR (they usually let parents do that for children). Blew both my parents a kiss, told them I loved them, and said to my dad, ‘Thanks for the ride, mister,’ and I could see him laughing through his tears.
The anesthesiologist, put the mask on my face, and said he needed me to count down from 100. I’m such a Type A, I was thinking I will get through to 1–no problem. I don’t think the full word 100 was out of my mouth and I already was–out. The first thing I remember when I came to was a nurse telling me that all nurses were jealous of how little my waist was (God bless women, we are a shallow lot, and always grateful to accept a compliment, regardless of circumstance). Followed by my parents who were by my side and my mom telling me, first, that the surgery had gone well they removed a tumor a little smaller than a cherry; and, thankfully, I did not have my valve replaced.
I was not a pork princess, after all. The tumor left a shadow on the echocardiogram making it appear larger than it was, and my valve was not damaged during the tumor removal. My mom also said that my Godmother Ann was there to see me and my mom jokingly told her “No Bear Hugs for Melayna today.”
My Godmother Ann, was known for her firm, jewelry laden, loved-filled, bear hugs. She was the coolest lady and so ahead of her time. She told me that even if you don’t feel good, make sure you look good. One of my favorite stories she told me was when she was younger, dressed to kill and shopping in downtown Pittsburgh (we were definitely related.) She was on an elevator and two little babushkas, yammering on in Russian suggesting that she must have been someone’s rich mistress dressed like that and who did she think she was; and, my Godmother, getting off the elevator, turned to the ladies and said in fluent Russian , “I’m the bitch that knows how to dress ladies, take note.” She was married to her husband Mike for over 50 years, lived beautifully in a small town that she was always too big for and I still hope to be her someday when I grow up!
Thanks for reading-Melayna Lokosky