It is not too difficult to get jitters imagining being in a hospital. The smell of spirit, the never-ending white walls, the medicines, shrewd nurses and of course, doctors who always tell you what to do and what not to do. When I was admitted to the JJ hospital for my Laproscopic Appendectomy (swell name, eh? It is a method to remove an inflamed appendix, for those who don’t know), my fear was quite evident, too. Who wouldn’t be scared? It was the General Male Surgical Ward: The prospect of being surrounded by men with amputated limbs and diabetic feet was enough to demoralize me! Although I wouldn’t be going through all what the other patients were, it was the first time I was admitted to a hospital. So my fear was understandable. Dr. Abhishek, a newbie in the ward, was given my responsibility. He had to visit me around 5 times a day. And often, the poor fellow had to wait, as I would be busy gorging on the roadside food below the hospital building or simply roaming around. I wasn’t sorry for it at all – Hospital food is never something that I consider worth relishing. Also, I did not like to wear the patient uniform provided to me. I would wear the same clothes that I normally would at home and shockingly, no one objected.
Dr. Abhishek, I must say, was a very nice man, but often appeared too stressed. Dealing with so many patients was not an easy task, that too while working in rotating shifts. Plus he was about to get married, so I could understand his plight, and how he must have felt constantly switching lives. It is ironic how someone who is supposed to provide comfort, can be at discomfort.
Relatives would have to wait for me, too. In one such instance, I had gone to the barber for a shave (Yes, I did that!) and ended up meeting them while they were leaving the hospital building. Apparently, they were trying to locate me for half an hour. After a couple of days of my stay, even the hospital staff knew that my medicine had to be kept at the table if I wasnt there. Although I feel ashamed of it now, I enjoyed every bit of this ‘special’ treatment back then. I hated the medicines, though. I would crib like a little child at the sight of tablets and capsules! “We can’t always inject medicines, right? Your body will then get so used to injections that oral medicines will have no effect. When you grow old and have to have medicines because your veins will be too hard to find, what will you do?”, Dr. Abhishek would rejoinder. Doctors always have their way, somehow, and he seemed to prefer the softer form of intimidation.
As a few days passed, I began to get used to the place and the people. I would talk and try to motivate patients with really extreme injuries, most of which had resulted in amputations. It was painful to see their agony, as much as it was difficult to understand the exact extent of their courage. I clearly remember walking towards my cot from the loo, and finding a man (probably in his sixties) weeping, as the doctor clawed the deep, wide wound on the sole of one of his feet. When he realized that I was watching all this, he smiled at me with tears still in his eyes. I saluted the man with a silent smile, too.
Such incidents gave me much-needed courage for my surgery, although I must say, I was not very scared of it. I trusted the doctors, many of whom performed multiple surgeries every Wednesday and Friday. Needless to say, there was always a long queue of patients wearing the same bottle green clothes, complete with a bottle green skull-cap. I got a chance to try this attire on a Friday. It was also the day when I came to know that ‘Laproscopic Appendectomy’ meant they would put a camera inside me through an incision. I was told that it was a safer option than the conventional method of opening the side of the patient’s torso. This added more to my already-brimming stock of self-assurance.
The doctors were literally on a surgery spree that day. After all, patients had to wait for an entire week for one of these two days. By the time it was my turn, it was afternoon and I was already famished. They had prevented me to eat anything since the previous night (which is good, or they would have discovered that I ate outside food). I walked inside the operation theater alone. Here too, the walls were white and the entire room was well-lit and extremely clean. And then, I saw the operation table. It was not very wide and just about the length of my body. I wondered where I would be resting my arms. My imagination conjured images of corpses with their hands resting on their stomachs, and kept inside coffins about the same size as operation tables. It was the time of my life when I would do some act of cleanliness to ward of my nervousness. I can say I began to get really nervous, because I was washing my hands (arms, rather) all the way up to my elbows, without the slightest clue why. I could hear my bravado draining. Hell, I must have pissed tens of times in my mind! This feeling of mental incontinence was overwhelming.
“What are you doing there?”, said a voice from behind my back. I turned around to see a group of doctors standing before me. “Just washing my hands… I thought since this is a surgery, I should be clean… Am I right?”, I responded. “Mr. Shamsi,” said an old female doctor in a motherly voice “We are performing your surgery, not the other way around. Any way, you are too clean already.” They all laughed and I followed suit, but halfheartedly. I know what she was talking about.
Earlier that morning, I was given a shave from my chest, all the way down to my knees. The process, which I consider too shameful to speak in-detail, was appalling at best. I was happy with the end result, though. At least chances of infection would be slimmer, I thought. But the happiness was short-lived: They sprayed a solution on me (read: my shaved area) which, they said, would form an anti-bacterial coating. It also turned out to be the time I screamed my loudest in a medical facility. I feel it would be futile to make my readers understand how painful it was – I just cannot explain it!
My doctors asked me to lie down on the table. I did so, with my panic seeping out at places. I asked that motherly voiced lady about what would they do to me during the surgery.
“Nothing. We will just put you to sleep.”
“You mean you will inject something that will cause my Serotonin levels to go up? And how will I wake up? And will you be putting THAT camera inside my stomach?”
“Just relax and… why are your palms sweating?”, she said while injecting something.
“Oh, that is just the water I couldn’t wipe.”
When I opened my eyes some hours later, the light bedazzled me. I must have died and reached heaven, I thought. It did not take me much time to figure that the room was too well-lit for my liking. I was still half-asleep. A guy in bottle green-clothes walked up to me and showed me a little glass jar. It contained my inflamed appendix, and it looked absolutely horrific, as far as I can recollect. I realized it was Dr. Abhishek, and my eyes closed. When I regained consciousness again, I was no longer in the operation theater. But wherever I was, I was not alone. I could hear people moaning in pain, myself included. I tried to lift my head, and realized that I could not do it; not without having to experience more pain, at least. My hands were positioned exactly where I had imagined on the corpse, but they could move, which was relieving. I lifted the sheet that covered me to see the extent and number of incisions. The sight was shocking. I could not believe what I was seeing. I was aghast at how incapable my doctors had proven themselves.
“Where the hell are my clothes?!”
These were the first words to come out of my mouth after my surgery, and sadly, they were addressed to myself. I could not speak properly, may be because they had inserted tubes through my mouth. I was disgruntled. Which idiot wearing only a hospital shirt, after a painful surgery, won’t be? The night brought even more pain, as the effect of anesthesia faded. The only thing that helped me cope up with this pain was the presence of my mother, who sat beside me throughout the night and kept saying that everything would be alright. I was discharged two days later, as my surgery was “minor.” I thought otherwise but didn’t really care a bit about the term, perhaps because I was too busy bidding farewell to my fellow patients and wishing them speedy recovery. Most importantly, I was just happy to be heading home.
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