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The Room

Chapter IV


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Hamilton got it wrong, sorry Lin Manuel.
I most certainly did NOT want to be ‘in the room where it happens’.

I don’t think Dafna slept Sunday night.
I know I didn’t.

Up early. We don’t have to arrive until 9:30 for check in. We’ll get there by 9. Parking is a bitch, takes us a while, which only makes me more anxious and doesn’t help anything except my rising blood pressure.

We wind our way through the hospital until we get to the Surgery Check-in and Waiting Area.

It’s massive. And already almost full.

We check in. We’re given a number that I can look at monitors to see where my ‘family member’ is in the process.

Now we wait.

I watch as green-scrubbed doctors come out and talk to families. I don’t want to look at the family’s reactions. I’m making stupid pointless small-talk with Dafna. I have to take her mind of this… yeah right… like THAT’s gonna happen.

I’m doing what I can. I don’t know what else to do.

Dafna has asked one of our friends, Candice, to come and wait with me during the surgery because she knows I hate that part. Waiting.

But I know it’s not the waiting she’s worried about. She’s worried about what happens if the news is bad. I am too. Candice is lovely but if the news is bad it won’t matter who’s waiting with me. I know this. I know what I’ll be like if this doesn’t go well.

I don’t say anything. What’s the point? Dafna’s trying to help. She’s worrying, as usual, about other people, in this case, me. It won’t do her any good to tell her that if the news is bad they might as well kill me the same day.

So, we find the last two seats where we can sit together, and we wait.

Candice hasn’t arrived yet. I’m not sure when she’s going to get here. The surgery isn’t supposed to start until 11:30 so there’s plenty of time.

A nurse comes out and calls our name. Time to go back.

The next part is pretty typical. Prods, pokes, needles, IV’s, blood draw, and endless questions.

Candice is texting, asking where we are. After a few back and forth we realize she went to the wrong hospital. She’s devastated. No worries, I tell her, there’s plenty of time. It gives me a little more alone time with my love. I’m desperately trying NOT to think of where my brain is starting to go; that this may be the last alone time I get. Stop it. Focus on now. Stop thinking about the worst case.

Candice makes it just in time. About 5 minutes before they’re ready to take her into the surgical suite. And then, it’s time. All the forms have been signed, all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. One of the anesthesiologists comes in and gets everything ready to go.

And just like that the assistant anesthesiologist is wheeling her away from me. This is the part I hate and have been trying to avoid in my mind the most. Sure, waiting all this time has SUCKED! And having to wait to find out if they find any more bad things and all that, yeah, that SUCKS too.
But this…. This may be the hardest part for me.

This isn’t my first rodeo as they say.
We’ve been through too many surgeries Dafna and I.
And yeah, this surgery, a hysterectomy, is common these days. They’re using a Robot for goodness sakes and half the time these surgeries are outpatient and the patient goes home the same day.
But it is STILL major surgery.
There are still risks.

Sure, he’s a great doc. Head of the whole damned department after all. (That sucks too by the way, that we have to have a whole department for OBGYN Oncology but that’s, as they say, a whole ‘nother Oprah. I can’t remember, have I mentioned that I fucking hate cancer?).

But you see, major surgery, not matter how common, and no matter how skilled the surgeon, is still major surgery. And as they always are quick to point out: It’s rare, but bad stuff can happen.
What they mean is you can die!

So as they’re wheeling her away from me it’s taking every single part of me to keep myself from completely breaking down in front of Candice.

I’m not going to cry, I’m’ not going to cry, I’m not going to cry.

That’s what my eyes are screaming, but my brain? My mind? My HEART? That chorus is loud and scared out of it’s mind because all I can think is “Is this the last time I will be able to see her?”

I ask a passing nurse about her “personal effects bag” and learn we need to store it in a locker so Candice and I head off in search of the row of lockers.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about ‘the room where it happens’. We’re getting there.

They said the surgery would last between three and four hours depending on what they found. So after about 45 minutes, maybe a little more, I get a call and it’s one of the O.R. nurses. Everything’s fine, they started about 30 minutes ago and just wanted to let me know.
That’s pretty cool. Okay, now I have a rough timeline in my head.

When the phone rings again about 2 hours in, I answer a little more cautiously. Another O.R. nurse.
“Everything’s going fine…”

At this point I’m thinking, wow this is almost like having a live tweeted surgery, how cool that they’re about half way through and she’s calling to let me know how things are progressing.

And that’s when it all went to shit.

Because the next words out of her mouth are, “in fact, they’re just about done.”

I hear her turn and say “…are you going to talk to the family”

Then, back to me she says “Yep, they’re wrapping up and the doctor will come to talk to you.”

Now, you might say, wow, that’s awesome. It’s over, and now you’re find out how things went. No more waiting. Cool right?

Except she has one more thing to tell me.

Let me just give you a glimpse into what was going on in my brain.
When I first got to the waiting area, I had seen some doctor-like people in green scrubs come into the large room, find the family and walk up to them saying, “Everything went well……”

So, I’m thinking two things immediately.
1. We have to get back up there before he makes it into the room. (we were down in the cafeteria)
2. Wait a minute. It’s only been two hours. Why so quick?

Before I can fully process that last one, the nurse says something that makes my blood run cold.
She just finished saying, “….the doctor will come to talk to you….” and then she says, “… we’ll get a consult room ready for you.”

And that’s it. My mind is off to the races.
A Consult Room?
What do you mean a consult room?
Why does the doctor have to talk to me in a room? Can’t he just find me in the waiting area like the other families?

And then it all falls down around me.
2 Hours.
It was supposed to be 3 or 4.
Something went wrong. They found something. It’s bad. Oh Shit! We’re walking fast down the hallway, or at least Candice is, I’m stuck behind a slow-moving gaggle of a family that seems to be out for a Sunday stroll on a Monday in the hospital corridor.

We finally make it into the waiting area just as a woman is saying “family for Michaelson”.

Yes, that’s us. We’re here.
And then she leads us to the room.

There are only two consult rooms for the entire massive waiting area. Identical rooms, next to each other.

“Consult rooms”.

She shows us inside.
Small. Nondescript. Just a table and chairs with two doors. One that we entered through from the waiting area and another that comes in from the other side.
“The Doctor will be with you shortly.”

Candice asks if there’s a restroom.

Just down the hall. “I’ll be right back” she says.

And that’s it. I’m sitting alone in the room, waiting.

NO. I don’t want to be in this damn room. I want to be out there where all those people are and the doctor isn’t afraid to give me bad news and cause a scene.

Please… please don’t make me wait in this room. Please, I can’t lose her. I can’t live my life without her. Please.. please… for the love of God please get me out of this room.

My heart is pounding. My eyes are leaking, what the fuck is wrong with them? I’m taking massive gulps of air and it feels like the walls are closing in on me except I can’t even feel it because I’m so scared. I’ve never been more scared of anything in my entire life.

I can’t do this. I can’t sit here and have him tell me whatever it is, I’m going to lose it. I am going to completely lose my shit and they’re going to have to kill me because I’m not living with out Dafna, I just can’t.

The door opens and Candice is back. But before she can really say anything the other door opens and the Doctor walks in.
Turns out Candice was waiting for the one of the bathrooms to open (they’re just single bathrooms and they were all occupied) and she saw the Doctor walking by through the closed off door into the surgical suites and so she ran back to ‘the room’.

My heart is beating so fast surely everyone in the room can hear it.

I’m pleading with my eyes because I’m too numb to say anything out loud.

He didn’t wait. He didn’t pause, though I swear that half a second lasted a lifetime.

“Everything went great”

I don’t really remember anything else he said. I think Candice and I asked a question or two but honestly, I can’t remember what they were.

We got the best possible outcome. At least at this point.
Nothing is certain until the pathology comes back, something I didn’t realize was going to happen. I thought that frozen section thing in the surgical suite was all that had to be done, but no, lymph nodes are how you tell if the cancer has spread for sure and that has to go to a lab.

Okay, so we’ll have to wait a week or so, but SO FAR SO GOOD.

It’s only after he leaves the room, only after we’re walking back into the waiting area and sit down to wait our 45-60 minutes so we can go and see her that it hits us. “Why the hell were we in the room?”

I still don’t know.
Lots of other people had their doctors come and talk to them in the waiting area. We watched it happen. One or two got sent to the dreaded consult room, but most didn’t.

I have no idea why or how or what criteria requires a consult in the room, but all I know is I wish they had told me that was going to happen because when it did, I most CERTAINLY did NOT want to be in the room where it happens.

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