Mar 22, 2010

A Most Unusual St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, readers! Sure, it’s several days after the fact, but while you were all out drinking green tea and stuffing your faces with green jalapeños and green lettuce leaves, I was in the hospital undergoing major surgery. I bravely chose the luckiest day of the year to have a body part removed.

The events leading to my surgery started months before. I was having a lot of pain for quite some time and finally made an appointment in January to see a Japanese doctor who requires that you speak to him through a translator. Dr. Yamagata is cheaper and more compact than other doctors. He takes any insurance, as long as the insurance card is plastic or laminated. He is allergic to latex.

After the examination, Yamagata's translator said my uterus just wasn’t doing its job anymore and that I’d need a hysterectomy. He said it’s obvious the uterus has never been good to me, making his point by pulling out copies of my kids’ very mediocre standardized test scores; a good uterus wouldn’t even consider hosting such offspring. He added that my uterus was “getting old and needed to go,” pausing at that moment to eyeball my husband, Joe, who was staring at his shoelace deep in thought. Joe later explained that he was wondering how his laces became tied because he couldn't remember tying them. “You don’t need to settle for mediocrity anymore, Jackie!" the translator said, snapping me out of my thoughts. "It’s time to have a hysterectomy!” he added dramatically. The doctor clapped in approval.

I had a gut feeling that neither the doctor nor his translator, who wore a chef’s hat, was qualified to make medical decisions. Maybe I should go to a doctor who had a degree posted on his wall. Mine just had a framed 2008 calendar. Maybe I should go to a doctor who speaks English so he can understand what I'm saying. When I asked Yamagata if this surgery was medically necessary, he told me he bought his shoes at the Macy’s One-Day Sale. When I asked him how long the surgery would take, he said gazelles run faster than raccoons. I couldn’t argue with his logic, but something was amiss. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

My husband whispered that we should just listen politely and leave, but then the doctor’s impressive use of confusing medical terms swayed us into thinking that perhaps this man knows what he’s talking about. He said a surgery would change my life. The clincher was when he got out several 8 x 10 glossies of famous people whose uteruses he removed . . . Tina Fey, Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie and that guy who plays James Bond – not the Timothy Dalton Bond, who was cold and distant, but the new, sensitive Bond who cries all the time. He said I could be like any of them if I had a hysterectomy. I asked him specifics about the surgery. My husband asked if he could keep the picture of Angelina Jolie.

With the evidence weighing heavily in favor of having surgery, I told the doctor that I’d agree to do it if he could perform the surgery on St. Patrick’s Day. The translator quickly made a phone call, in which I overheard him saying Dr. Yamagata can finance the purchase of the new yacht after all. When the translator hung up, he said the surgery date had been set.

I went home to talk to Paul the paperboy about the situation. He told me to relax and go ahead with the procedure. He agreed that only the coolest people have surgeries. He gave examples of Hollywood actors who go into surgery looking like 60-year-olds and come out looking like 20-year-olds. Paul Cynewski said all of his customers who had operations told him they wish they had done it years ago. He assured me that surgery will change a mediocre life into a great life. I reflected for a moment. Didn’t David have surgery before he killed Goliath? Didn’t New Orleans’ quarterback Drew Brees have surgery right before he won the Super Bowl? Didn’t Donald Trump have a hysterectomy before he fired the surgeon? The paperboy told me I was making the right decision. He also said my porch would look more inviting with a garden gnome on it. I like that kid.

So when March 17 rolled around, my husband and I went to the hospital feeling confident. We were a bit flustered to meet a “Dr. Grogg,” who said he would be performing the surgery instead since Dr. Yamagata was taken away in cuffs. I wondered if he meant hand-cuffs or a formal shirt with the sleeves cuffed.

Dr. Grogg was really nice. He could pronounce the word uterus without help from a translator. He had the look and feel of a real surgeon. He didn’t even have an eye patch. His name tag was an official hospital ID that read “Dr. Terry Grogg, M.D.” I recalled that Dr. Yamagata’s name tag was a sticky label that said, “Hello. My name is_______.” He scribbled on it, “Doctar Yamagata," misspelling doctor. Joe must have had the same thoughts running through his mind. He squeezed my hand, and we exchanged relieved smiles that said God was taking care of us. My husband kissed me goodbye, and, as they wheeled me to the surgery room, I saw him take out his photo of Angelina Jolie.

In the operating room, the anesthesiologist asked me to count backwards from 10. It was unfair. If I had known they were going to quiz me, I’d have practiced the night before. Embarrassed, I spoke as slowly as possible, hoping I was correct in starting with the number 8. After that, I don’t remember anything.

The next memory I have is of waking in a hospital bed with several nurses around me. They said everything went well and offered me chocolate Jell-O pudding. They showed me a photo of Bill Cosby and asked me if I recognized him from the Jell-O commercials.

I saw that my husband was in the room too. As long as Joe is with me, I always feel like everything will be ok. He was very helpful and attentive. He stayed overnight at the hospital with me, despite the fact that the “guest bed” was really an uncomfy chair that pulls out into a semblance of a bed. He had me take the chair so that he could get a good rest.

The next morning, my sons came to visit me and brought with them their most recent tests from school. Each of them got As! Removing my uterus had already made a major difference. In a couple hours, Dr. Grogg discharged me from the hospital, and we were on our way back home. As we pulled into our driveway, I saw that the paperboy had placed a garden gnome on our doorstep. I like that kid.

An hour later, I awoke from a deep sleep to the frightening sounds of loud banging on the front door. Suddenly the door was kicked in and the scene was frenzied. An angry policeman was yelling and pointing a gun at us. He shouted that I was under arrest for stealing the garden gnome from my neighbor. I cried, swearing I did nothing. That I just had surgery. I showed him the scars as evidence. The sight of the incisions made the cop feel faint, and he dropped to the floor like a banana peel.

When he regained consciousness, Officer Sal apologized for the wrongful accusation over and over again. He felt so bad that the tossed the keys to his cruiser to my sons, telling them to go out and take a break, and he'd take care of me. He then brought me cranberry juice, a Percocet and the heating pad. He took a Percocet himself and wrote up a restraining order so the gnome neighbor wouldn’t bother me again.

In retrospect, Dr. Yamagata was right in saying surgery would change my life for the better. I wanted to visit him in jail to thank him, but he has fled the country.

Jackie's Note: This posting to dedicated to our good friends Ellie and John, who also had surgeries this week. My surgery went well, and I'm doing fine. Thank you for your prayers. My real GYN is Dr. Stuart Jones. Dr. Terry Grogg is the one who did my robotic surgery. They're both fantastic!

The character of the translator in this posting is entirely fictitious. Paul Cynewski no longer delivers our papers.

~~ Are you now a male without a uterus? 3/22/10
Jackie's comment: I am offended, but I'll look into it. I'll get on Wikipedia now.

~~ Did Obamacare pay for this??? If I'm going to pay for 30 million people, you might as well be added to the list!!! I'm glad the doctor's name wasn't Mengala. Keep us posted on Joe's Vasectomy. He should "feel your pain". Who won the raffle of the uterus? 3/23/10
Dr. Pig, Veterinary Medicine
The Ohio State University
Class of 1921
Youngtown, Ohio
Jackie's comment: I'll keep my political comments to myself, but no, my neighbor is paying for this. She's on vacation so I used her ID and insurance card. I don't recognize the name Dr. Pig, but you must be a female. No man I know would wish a vasectomy on another male.
Regarding the raffle, the proud winner is Bernie Gutman, of Queens, New York. For those of you who don't know, I raffled off my uterus before the surgery. Bernie, you'll get a package in the mail soon, compliments of the US Postal Service. They said if you don't get it tomorrow, it'll probably show up eventually. And don't worry, Bernie, no one is judging you for entering such a raffle.

~~ Glad you're better. 3/24/10

~~ Good to hear it went well. 3/24/10
Tina, NJ

~~ My dear friend glad to hear you are feeling better. If you enjoy gnomes as you profess, you may enjoy watching The Amazing Race. Gnomes tend to make cameos on that show. John's surgery was peanuts compared to your Shyamalan tale. He was hefting toddlers and baby brothers around shortly after he crawled home from the operating table. What a man. 3/25/10
Joan McAvoy, Dayton
Jackie's comment: John is truly a man! I am in awe of his manliness. I'm glad to hear he is better. Did he see that this posting was dedicated to him (and to Ellie from NJ)? Hey, I have a stack of books for your toddlers. I assume they like anthologies to do with Middle English literature? There are even some plays about my personal favorite, medieval morality.

~~ I had no idea you had a hysterectomy! Well I'm glad things went well. I'm surprised to hear you raffled off your uterus. I thought your people ate them as part of some fertility ritual??? 3/27/10
Dawn, Dublin, OH
Jackie's response: Wouldn't be too late for "fertility" if you removed a uterus to eat it? I'm not sure what was in the water in Long Beach Island, but I can tell you drank a lot of it. Some people really eat the placenta after birth and some animals eat their offspring, as your husband would tell you, but I'm not a weirdo. I eat things normal Americans eat, like fudge and asparagus.
Yeah, I'm doing remarkably well. Gained a ton of weight for some reason (from 106.5 to 115) just after surgery, but what do I care? I'm married. It's Joe's problem now. Thanks for writing. Oh, and thanks for all your post-op "help."