By Donna Johna
The day of my second knee replacement, I arrived promptly at nine, swapped my clothing for a johnnie, and climbed up on the gurney. I was not particularly nervous because I knew what to expect. The antiseptic smells mingled with the nervous murmurings of patients as the nurse expertly inserted my IV and taped it down. The IV was not bothersome, but I hated having to remove my earrings and hand them over to my daughter. A scant fifteen minutes later, an army of nurses, anesthesiologists, and orderlies wheeled me down the hall to execute the spinal block.
I do not love people poking around my spinal column in an effort to paralyze me from the waist down. “Now, honey child,” the anesthesiologist crooned to the young woman standing behind me, “remember everything I showed you.” Oh my god, a trainee is about to paralyze me! Then a rush of cold moved down my legs, and I watched my feet go limp. Well, so far so good…unless it’s permanent.
The trip into the operating room was a blur as the knock-out drugs began to take hold. Time for a nap, old girl, and a new knee. Some time later, my eyes fluttered open, and I heard hammering of metal on metal, like a blacksmith making horseshoes. Holy crap, the doctor’s hammering my prosthetic into place, and I’m awake. My eyes instinctively moved to the end of the table to watch, but a surgical drape blocked my view. In my drug addled state, I decided that the only sensible thing to do was to sing. I hummed to test the waters, and nobody seemed to mind; the steady hammering continued.
So I belted out “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Misérables in perfect time with my surgeon’s hammer. It seemed to go over well…nobody complained, and nobody put me under. I sang the rest of the score, and when I ran out of songs, I moved on to Camelot. My surgeon must not have liked Lerner and Lowe because he abruptly left the room, and I got very sleepy again.
I woke as I was wheeled into recovery and transferred into another bed. I poked at a wadded up blanket next to my side until I realized it was my absolutely numb right hip. “OK, hon, can you wiggle your toes?” my nurse asked. Not likely, since an anesthesiologist trainee paralyzed me for life. She and I looked expectantly at my digits, but there was no movement.
“It’s early, yet,” the nurse said. “You can go back to your singing.” I had kind of hoped that my singing was a drug induced dream. Guess not.
“I really was singing? I asked her.
“Like a canary,” she replied.