Sunday 6 May 2007
Friday morning, on waking, I had a pain in my stomach. I felt anxious, nervous. I had a chaotic morning, disorganised, trying in vain to make myself concentrate on my work.
At 12:20 I was in the metro to go to my anaesthetist consultation. My appointment was 14:00 but like my appointment with the surgeon, I didn’t want to be late. And I wasn’t hungry. I was too nervous to stop to eat anywhere.
In the RER which was taking me to St Germain en Laye, I once again studied all the documents that I was asked to bring with me. Nevertheless, I had got them ready Wednesday evening, and checked them Thursday evening and that morning. But I needed to reassure myself and calm my agitation.
I had my last prescriptions, the results of my blood tests and questionnaires filled in and signed which were given to me 2 March (patient’s informed consent for surgery, HIV test, medical questionnaire for anaesthesia and patient’s informed consent for anaesthesia).
I had followed Claude’s advice and prepared a short list of questions:
- how exactly is he going to anaesthetise me?
- What is the sedative for which I will be given before the anaesthetic?
- How long will I be asleep?
- Will I be in pain when I wake up?
I really wanted to cry, there on the RER. There was this fear that interfered with everything and made tears come to my eyes. I felt as though I was going to a job interview. I had the feeling the surgeon and anaesthetist were doing me a favour by operating on me and that they could change their minds, without consulting me. Having the impression of depending on them and their good will totally troubled me. I felt powerless and I wanted to cry. For myself.
Finally I arrived, an hour early. Unable to stay there with nothing to do, I forced myself to have some lunch while waiting.
At 14:00 sharp I went into the waiting room, my legs a little numb. It was there that I had my consultation with Dr. Foldès. The anaesthetists’ medical secretary had given me a leaflet explaining the different types of anaesthetic, the precautions to take, the statistics of anything going wrong. I had only read half when the anaesthetist called me.
I spent exactly 7 minutes with Dr Ice-cube. 7 minutes opposite an iceberg who started by taking my blood pressure in a heavy silence. Then he asked me some questions with an uncommunicative face (what medicines do I take? Do I have any allergies? Have I had previous operations?) He then examined the results of my blood tests, and told me everything was all right. Then he delivered a rambling speech in a rapid voice, explaining to me that I wouldn’t be intubated, but I would have oxygen from a mask, that I would be asleep for approximately an hour and a half.
Completely without a glimmer of sympathy, Dr Cold told me I would have to be fasting from midnight from the evening before the operation. He didn’t tell me but I read in the information leaflet that fasting eliminates the risk of suffocating from untimely vomiting. He also said not to take any aspirin.
He got his breath back and asked me, while filling in the patient consent form for the anaesthetic, if I had any questions.
I asked him what the sedative was for which is given before the anaesthetics. He explained that the sedative helped reduce my nervousness, natural when faced with surgery, and so to help the anaesthesia. I also asked about waking up, I wanted to know if I would feel dopey. He answered no, that I would wake up as if after a night’s sleep. If I take the prescribed medicines, he told me, I will feel no pain. I spoke to him about my patch and he assured me I could keep it when I enter the clinic.
7 minutes went by this way and he took me back to the secretary. I paid 28 euros, 4 euros per minute, for this rather frosty anaesthesia consultation. I was a little irritated. Not because of the price, no, because of Dr Snow’s temperature.
So, all right, kindness, human warmth and sympathy aren’t rights, nobody is obliged to be warm and kind (although for the medical professions it is debatable) but all the same, the coldness of the anaesthetist troubled me, if not annoyed me. And then to have been dispatched in seven minutes, that downright worried me. I reassured myself as well as I can by saying to myself that I must be a commonplace and trivial case, but above all the fact of knowing Dr Foldès will be there and that I am his patient and not that of Dr Iceberg calms my anguish.
Paradoxically, the coolness of the anaesthetist has all the same allowed me to be less dramatic, be practical. In my eyes, that afternoon, my operation lost part of its symbolic extent and became more real.
Leaving the clinic I felt as though I was on holiday, light-hearted. It was fine, hot, and I thought that now, between the operation and myself, there were no more steps to take, no examinations, no questionnaires, nor phone calls to the insurance company.
There are only 12 days left.
[Original in French]