By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
You have to have the patience of a saint to deal with a devil of a patient.
That’s what I learned recently when I went to the hospital for a ureteroscopy, a surgical procedure taken from the Greek words “ureter” (an extremely sensitive area of the lower anatomy) and “oscopy” (invaded by a scope the length of a boa constrictor).
The intention was to blast to smithereens a kidney stone that, because it appeared to be composed of concrete and asphalt, was barely dented by shock waves in a less invasive but unsuccessful procedure a few weeks earlier.
Despite the persistent fear that I would wake up as the lead singer for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, I was in a pretty jaunty mood as I sat in the pre-op unit with my wife, Sue, who was at my side to provide comfort, support and, if necessary, information about my living will.
“Are you diabetic?” asked Janice, a nursing assistant.
“No,” I replied. “I’m Italian.”
“It gets worse,” Sue promised.
Sure enough, when Janice asked if she could take my blood pressure on my left arm, I said, “Either arm is fine. I have it narrowed down to two. Good thing I’m not an octopus or we’d have to do this underwater.”
“Is he always like this?” Janice asked Sue.
“Yes,” Sue responded. “I just ignore him.”
I helpfully pointed out that I hadn’t even been given drugs.
“If I gave you Sodium Pentothal, you’d be gabbing up a storm,” Janice said.
“Please,” Sue begged, “not that.”
“Do I have a pulse?” I asked Janice.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s 64. And your oxygen level is 100 percent.”
“I never got 100 on any test in school,” I said.
“You just aced oxygen saturation,” Janice replied.
“Too bad the oxygen isn’t going to my brain,” I noted.
Mary, a nurse, came in to continue the prep work.
“Turn toward me,” she said.
“I’m taking a turn for the nurse,” I told Sue.
Mary looked at Sue and said, “You’re his daughter, right?” Sue chuckled. Mary smiled and said to me, “I’m giving it right back to you.”
She was just what the doctor ordered: nice, funny and very good at her job.
Then the doctor (or one of them) came in.
“I’m Dr. David Paul, your anesthesiologist,” he said.
“What’s up, doc?” I asked in my best Bugs Bunny voice.
“I’m going to knock you out,” he said.
I thought Sue, Mary and Janice would kiss him.
After a brief discussion about allergies (“I’m only allergic to myself,” I said), the doctor left and Brian, a nurse anesthetist, came in.
“Do you have any questions?” he asked.
“Yes,” I responded. “Will you be giving me domestic beer or an import?”
“You’ll be getting craft beer,” Brian said. “It’s the best-quality brew.” He should know because a friend of his owns a brewery. “By the way,” Brian added reassuringly, “I won’t be having any during the operation. I’ll wait until tonight.”
“Cheers!” I said as Brian left. Then my urologist, Dr. Albert Kim, who would be performing the procedure, came in.
“Are you behaving?” he asked.
“Of course not,” I replied.
“Good,” he said with a smile. “See you in surgery.”
The operation was a success. I’m grateful to Kim and everyone at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, N.Y., for taking such good care of me.
The next day, Louise called from the hospital to ask how I was feeling.
“Couldn’t be better,” I said. “It’s been a rocky road, but the stone is gone.”
“Did she get the joke?” Sue asked after I hung up.
“I think so,” I answered.
“Next time you have surgery,” Sue said, “they should take the rocks out of your head.”
Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima