Copyright 2006 by Lisa Azimi
It was a moment of terror as I lay pinned and helpless in the early hours of the morning. Pain and panic all rolled into one. I thought I knew what pain was. I thought I had done it all. But this—this was something very different. It was my darkest hour.
Four months earlier I had breathed a sigh of relief in the doctor’s office. “Feels like a hernia,” Dr. Nichols said slowly as he pushed on a large lump in my groin area. “I’d like to send you to a specialist for further examination, but just to let you know, it can only be repaired through surgery.”
I felt my shoulders begin to relax. “I’m so relieved. Not about the surgery, but you know, whenever there’s a lump, people think the worst. How could this happen? I thought only men got hernias.”
“It is more common in men, but I’ve seen lots of women get hernias when they over exert themselves. Lifting, exercising or even vomiting can put stress on that muscle area and cause a hernia.” Dr. Nichols was busy writing notes in his folder. “I’ll have Sylvia call you with an appointment to see the surgeon.”
I thanked him and as I was leaving I thought about the terrible stomach flu I had suffered through the month before. It had felt like my insides were exploding every time I threw up. “Maybe that’s when it happened,” I mused as I slid into my car. I suddenly remembered hearing about a hospital in the area that specializes only in hernias and made a mental note to call the doctor’s secretary about it when I got home.
“Yes, I know of that hospital,” Sylvia’s low, steady voice hummed through the phone. “It’s called Sunwell Hospital. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard it’s more of a resort than a hospital. I believe they keep you for 3 to 4 days before you can go home.”
“What’s the recovery period if I have it done here at our hospital?”
“Recovery period?” I could hear the irony in her voice. “It’s day surgery and you recover at home for as long as you like!”
Four months later I was sitting on the edge of my hospital bed, fumbling with the white band around my wrist. I had tied my long auburn hair loosely back with a shiny clip and had put on a moderate amount of makeup, even though I knew it would have to be washed off. For some strange reason I felt relaxed and, in spite of myself, could not keep the hint of a smile from appearing on my face. Beside my feet was a small beige suitcase, already unpacked. On my bedside table lay the new novel I bought for the occasion. I glanced through the window at the magnificent view of the grounds. Acres of lush green parkland were landscaped with manicured gardens and century old trees. Intimate walkways wound through the gardens leading to park benches nestled between bushes and trees. The window was partly open and I could hear the birds singing and the faint sound of water trickling down a fountain. In the distance was a group of people laughing on a putting green. On the other side was a tennis court. This wasn’t a hospital, this was paradise!
From the moment I had arrived at Sunwell Hospital I felt like I was staying at a quaint country inn. The only thing missing was the bellboys. I had definitely made the right choice. No day surgery for me! I was looking forward to a pleasant, restful stay.
I watched the nurse as she was fluffing my pillow. I didn’t remember any nurse doing that before. She looked up. “Hi Lisa. You’re scheduled for surgery at 7:00 a.m. so nothing to eat or drink after 9:00 p.m. They do serve some delicious snacks in the dining room downstairs just before nine. It’s kind of a social thing too. You’ll get to meet some of the other people that are having surgery in the morning. Some good friendships have started here!” She smiled warmly at me. ”Anyway, if you need anything just call me at the nurse’s station, I’m Bev.”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine, thanks.” I settled down into the comfortable bed. I noticed there was no phone or TV in the room. Just as well. Nothing to disturb me, only rest…
“Lisa — wake up! It’s time to get ready for your surgery.” I could hear someone calling in my dream, a rough, impersonal voice. “Wake up!” I struggled to open my eyes. A tall, burly nurse was shaking my shoulder with one hand and holding a hospital gown in the other.
“You must put this on. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes to give you your sedative.” She jerked open the curtains to reveal only darkness. Her uniform rustled as she quickly walked out of the room.
Sedative? Wake me out of a dead sleep to give me a sedative? How ironic.
As the confusion slowly left me, I quickly did as I was told. Putting on the drab backless gown made my stomach do a little flip as I now anticipated what lay ahead. My mouth was dry. No big deal, I thought as I put socks on to warm my cold feet. I could hear the quick footsteps of the nurse coming toward my room.
“All set?” she bellowed, not bothering to introduce herself. Her deep voice and unsympathetic manner made me feel like I should salute when she entered the room. Her stern gray eyes were sunken in her oval face and they quickly scanned my appearance for any flaws. “Follow me. I’ll take you to the elevator and down to the prep room. I’ll give you your sedative there.”
Actually, I think I am going to need it now. I nervously followed the rustling nurse down the hall.
The “prep room” looked like an army dormitory. Rows of beds, some empty, some not. There was no sign of movement in the beds that were occupied. A strong medicinal smell filled this room which I hadn’t noticed upstairs. I walked in slow motion down the aisle to see which bed had my name on it. The dimmed light made it hard to read. There it was, the last one on the left.
“Sit down, I’m going to give you an injection of Demerol now,” the nurse ordered. I was looking for some sort of expression in her face as she stuck the needle in my arm. Nothing.
“So…that means I’ll be going back to sleep,” I said, somewhat relieved.
“Oh no! You’ll be awake through the whole surgery. You’ll just be very relaxed.” She patted my arm with a cotton ball and put on a bandage. “Good luck!” she said as she quickly marched back to her station.
Good luck? What does that mean? I wiped a bead of perspiration from my forehead as I lay down on the bed.
I wasn’t sure how long I had laid there when two men came to my bedside. I looked up, trying to focus but the dim light cast gloomy shadows on their faces. One of them spoke my name. The voice startled me. Strong arms pulled me up to my feet and escorted me to a brightly lit room. I could feel the woozy effects of the Demerol but was still too aware of what was happening around me.
“More Demerol……” I muttered as they laid me on the cold metal table. No one heard. More bright lights suddenly burned into my eyes. I could feel my arms being folded across my chest and heavy straps were clicked into place. I was certain I was in a straight-jacket!
“No!” Still no response. Had I been kidnapped in the night by aliens and transported to their laboratory? What happened to paradise?
Finally, a voice. “How are you feeling, Lisa?” A masked nurse leaned over me.
“I need more Demerol…” I muttered again.
“Just relax, you’ll be fine,” said the voice. “The doctor is going to start the freezing now. You’ll feel several sharp pin pricks in your abdomen, and then it will be over.” I could feel the nurse rubbing my forehead. I took a deep breath, then the sharp pains came, feeling more like daggers than pins. And then it was over. Well, that wasn’t so tough. The worst is over. Now I can relax.
Then suddenly, without warning, there was more pain. Excruciating pain. It was as if the daggers had sliced me open. I opened my mouth and screamed a terrified scream. The pain was unbearable. Then panic set in. I can feel them cutting me! I tried to move my arms and legs, but couldn’t. I was pinned to the table. Somewhere in the distance I heard the surgeon’s urgent voice, “Did you feel that?” and then, “Quick! She needs more freezing!” I was breathing very rapidly now. It was the only way I could cope with the pain. The room started spinning. A nearby monitor was beeping frantically out of control. I felt nauseous and my whole body started to shake. “Oh, God…I’m going to be sick! Please help me!”
Suddenly there was a mask over my face and I was shaking my head from side to side. I couldn’t stand the smell of it. I could hear the nurse telling me to breathe slowly. “This oxygen will stop you from hyperventilating. We’re going to give you more Demerol and more freezing. I know it’s painful, but try to relax.” Relax? How could I? I trusted you. My worst fears have come true. I have never experienced such pain in my life. Slowly, I felt my body begin to go numb and the pain disappear. I was floating above the table, above the sky itself and then, into nothingness.
I could hear voices. Familiar voices. I opened my eyes and slowly focused on the person sitting at the foot of my bed.
“Hi Mommy! How are you feeling?” I thought it was the sweetest voice I had ever heard. My daughter, Carlie was rubbing the blankets on my feet, a concerned look on her face. I managed a smile. Then I looked across the room and saw my husband sitting in the armchair. He slowly got up and held my hand. “Hi.” He kissed my forehead. “Heard it was kinda rough. But you’re ok now.”
I had no idea how much time had passed. My head was pounding and my mouth was dry. There were tubes going into my nose and arm. I dared not move my body. All I could do was nod. I looked around the beautifully decorated room with the sun shining through the picture window. None of it mattered anymore. It was all bitter sweet. Had I made the right choice after all? I was usually pretty good at choices. For now, I would have to take comfort in the fact that mistakes can happen anywhere, anytime. Never judge a book by its cover, my mother always told me. “I’m ok now,” I managed to reply. But this time I chose false paradise, I thought miserably.
Lisa Azimi is a freelance writer living in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada with her husband, ten year old daughter and the newest addition, Golden Retriever puppy, Brandy. Her nonfiction work has appeared in several publications in Canada. Since completing a Creative Writing course at Sheridan College, she has expanded her love of writing to include fiction writing as well.
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