Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Surgery That Didn't Happen Yet

I think it's reached the point that I have little to lose by telling what happened in relation to my surgery. Furthermore, I don't think even my parents or friends are reading my blog anymore. It's more of a personal journal in which I'm slightly risking exposure when I write anything too personal, but the likelihood of such happening is somewhere between slim and nonexistent.

Before my cast came off, I was forewarned that the skin on my leg would not be a thing of beauty. The doctors were not exaggerating. Lesions from a semi-serious infection left pitted scars all over my right leg, from the foot to the upper thigh. These, I was told, would fade over time with proper care, meaning avoidance of sun and liberal use of Mederma or a similar scar-fading cream. The worst parts, however, were the surgical scars. In past years, surgical scars generally resembled railroad tracks all over the affected body part. Since then, techniques have improved to the degree that one is not necessarily doomed to have an operated-upon body part look like the intersection of the Pennsylvaina, Shortline, B & O, and Reading Railroad lines. If a serious infection happens to occur inside an incision line, however, all bets are off in terms of the appearance of the incision or incisions. I screamed when I first looked at the incision as soon as the cast was removed, and I am decidedly not a person who views herself as a potential beauty pageant contestant. It really looked that bad.

As soon as the initial shock of the appearance of my affected leg wore off, the doctors mentioned that surgery was a possibility down the road. The time frame discussed was between six month and a year. Later, the date was moved up to as early as late fall so that if the healing of the bones went suitably well I would able to complete in spring sports without my season being interrupted by surgery. That was the last I heard about it.

Then on Wednesday I needed to print a couple of project proposals. I have asked on numerous occasions for permission to use my own funds to purchase my own printer so that I would not be dependent upon the use of my parents' printer. The answer has always been no. My parents have always told me that I have carte blanche to use their printer ay any time I desire to use it without the necessity of asking their permission beforehand. I was doing just that - using my parents' printer to print my assignment -- when I removed a document that had been left in the output section of the printer so that it would not be mixed up with my own pages. My intention was not to snoop, but I happened to notice my name on the top page of the document, so I read it.

What I found in my parent's printer and read was a surgical consent form for me, complete with a list of all possible side effects of the surgical procedure and of the general anaesthesia that would be necessary in order for the procedure to be performed. Then I noticed the date that the surgery was to take place: Friday, September 17. My surgery was scheduled in two days, and no one had thought it appropriate to call it to my attention. I had several thoughts as to how best to handle this oversight on the part of my parents. I considered shredding the consent form and deleting the email with the attached file that contained the surgical consent form, which would in effect thwart my parents' ability to sign the forms and return them according to the required timeline. I also considered confronting my parents and refusing to go along with the surgery as planned. After thinking for a few moments, I came up with a more cerebral plan.

I left the surgical consent forms exactly where I had found them. I went into my room and into the bathroom that is entered from inside my room. I turned on the shower, locked the door while it was open, then closed the door. The lock is so flimsy that it can be unlocked with a paper clip, but my parents don't know this because they've never tried it. I climbed out my upstairs window to a tree, then scaled it to the ground. I jogged*** three blocks to Walgreen's, picked up a bottle of aspirin, and purchased it. I jogged*** back home, scaled the tree back into my room, picked the lock to the bathroom, shut the shower off, and put on my pajamas. I took two aspirin before I went to bed, then took one more when I woke up a t 4:00 a.m. The next day I took three aspirin tablets, spaced out fairly evenly. Aspirin can be a bit hard on one's stomach and intestinal lining, and it was on mine, but I considered it a small price to pay.

On Thursday night, just before I went to bed, my father mentioned to me that I would need to refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight because I was scheduled for surgery the next day. To avoid giving away that I was already aware of the surgery, I acted mildly miffed that I hadn't been informed earlier. In the course of the mock argument, it was disclosed that it wouldn't be merely a skin-deep procedure, as I had previously been told, but that a bone adjustment would be done while the leg was open. Again, I acted just upset enough to avoid tipping my parents off. My mother made it clear that she had been totally opposed to keeping me in the dark as far as the planned surgery went. Since there are no guns in our home, I don't exactly understand how my father forced her not to tell, me, but, at the same time, I appreciated the idea that she felt that I was old enough to handle the idea of upcoming surgery more than nine hours in advance, even though there was nothing concrete preventing her from apprising me of the situation. Still, since she is the one who is married to my father and will presumably have to live with him long after I have moved on to greener pastures, I will cut her some slack.

I went to bed at about 11:00, but had difficulty sleeping. Since I was awake anyway, I took another aspirin at 3:00 a.m. just for good measure. At 5:30, my father came in and "woke me up" (I had not been asleep, but pretended to have been) to tell me that we would need to leave for the hospital in forty-five minutes. I showered, dressed, and stood around watching while my parents ate breakfast in front of me, which, rude as it was, didn't bother me all that much, as I knew I'd be eating soon enough, anyway.

We made the ten-minute trip to the hospital essentially in silence. My father made a few attempts at small talk, which were met by silence from both me and my mother. We went through the usual redundant check-in procedure. Neither my birthdate nor my social security number had changed since I was last treated there three weeks ago, but the data still needed to be re-entered mutiple times.

Eventually I reached the pre-operative station. The nurse was surprised at how quickly my blood flowed when she inserted the IV and took the required samples before switching over to the drip. Then came the exciting part. The nurse prepping me started to ask about what medications I had taken recently. When she realized that, despite my twelve-year-old appearance, I am actually over sixteen, she asked if I would be more comfortable answering questions without my parents present. I chose to take her up on the offer. This caught the nurse somewhat by surprise, as the answers kids don't want their parents to hear typically pertain to oral contraceptives or illicit drug use. I was obviously not a candidate for oral contraceptives, and it seemed unlikely that I was using methamphetamines or any like substances on the side, but rules are rules, and adolescents (which I'm technically not even though I'm of the age) have to be given the pewrogative to answer questions out of earshot of their parents. My father started to protest, but my mother steered him down the hall and through the door to the waiting area.

This is the point at which I explaained to the preoperative nurse that I had been suffering from unexplained headaches and had been taking aspirin to fight the headaches. The nurse turned pale. She asked if my parents knew about this. I told her no. She asked if I understood that aspirin is an anticoagulant that cannot be consumed before non-emergency surgery. I explained that I wasn't informed that I was to have surgery until late the night before. She left me in my cubicle and went to the nurse's station. I could see that she was using the telephone. She apparently didn't reach the party or parties that she had attempted to reach, because I soon heard the names of both my surgeon and my anaesthesiologist being paged. Within moments both were present. My parents were soon invited back into the preoperative area as well.

Everyone was speaking in quiet but hostile voices to one another except to me. I was still left out of the conversation at this point. My dad said, "I didn't give her the aspirin."

My mom said, "I didn't give it to her, either. She never said a word about having a headache."

The surgeon asked why I was taking aspirin in the first place, because I'm still theoretically at risk for a condition known as Reye Syndrome, which has been linked to use of aspirin in combination with viral infection. Then the surgeon asked if anyone had told me not to take aspirin, which even if I was physically advanced enough to take without risk of Reye Syndrome, I should not have taken within ten days of my surgery date.

Then I piped up and told the surgeon that I didn't even know that I was having surgery until bedtime the night before.

The surgeon turned to my parents and said, "That's how you handle it when a three-year-old is having hernia surgery and you see no point in worrying him before the fact. A sixteen-year-old deserves to know in advance when she's having surgery. What were you thinking?"

My mom said, "I wanted to tell her. It was his idea (pointing at my dad) to keep her in the dark."

My dad responded with, "I knew she's get herself all worked uo and get sick if we told her before."

The anaesthesiologist siad, "Instead, she took aspirin, and we can't operate on her at all. That was really good thinking."

The nurse unhooked my IV. Blood spurted across the cubicle before she could apply the gauze pad to the IV site. I bled through three gauze pads even with my dad applying pressure to the wound. Eventually the bleeding stopped.

The surgeon got out his Blackberry and the scheduling nurse went to her computer. They came up with another date for my surgery. I'm now scheduled for October 1. As he was leaving, the surgeon said, "No aspirin for you under any circumstances! Do you understand?"

I said yes. The doctors other than my dad left. I got dressed and left with my mom and dad. The ride home was similar to the ride to the hospital, except it was my mom attempting to make small talk to no avail this time. My mom suggested taking me to school. My dad said I couldn't go because my blood was so thin that the slightest injury could be really dangerous.

When we got home, I asked if I could eat something. My mom said yes at the same time my dad said no. The my mom said, "John, I don't care how mad you are at her. She has to eat." I ate instant oatmeal while they went into their room to argue.

When they finally emerged, my dad wanted to know how I knew about the surgery before they told me. I played totally dumb, but he didn't buy it. I eventually confessed to finding the surgical consent form in the printer.
My dad started off on a diatribe about how I had no right to search through anyone else's private papers when my mom unexpectedly came to my defense. She told my dad that I was allowed to use the printer, and that if he was careless enough to leave papers he considered private right there in plain sight, he couldn't blame me. What I could be blamed for, my mother said, was buying and taking medication without their consent. I argued that if it was legal for me to buy and take it, doing so could not have been all that wrong.

My parents argued for several minutes about whether or not I was too old to be hit, then about whether or not grounding would be appropriate. My mother ended up winning both arguments. I was neither hit nor grounded. I did have to promise never to buy or take any medications, including vitamins or herbal supplements, without the express consent of my parents until the day I turned eighteen. My parents also promised never to schedule surgery for me without telling me. My dad told me I'd better not get sick right before the surgery on October 1, because if I did, I would prove his point.

I can tell that my dad is still angry with me even though he says it is not the case. My mom and dad aren't mad at each other any longer. My mom says that this is one of those things that my dad will laugh about eventually, but that it will take some time before he reaches that stage.

I won't even bother asking the opinion of Judge Alex about this one because, even if he were not to ignore me, he would side with my dad. The bottom line, though, is that he would ignore me, and I have a real problem with being ignored.

Thus ends one more exciting chapter in the life of a modern-day dysfunctional family.

***Jogging is a relative term when one is still dependent upon crutches to walk or jog.


  1. Is your father as stupid as he comes over, in this post?

    His actions and his attitude seems childish. Rather than childlike.

    He got found out doing something bad and is now sulking.

  2. Matt, I didn't see this question earlier, or I would have answered. I thrive on giving my own personal take on my dad's psychological profile. First of all, he was raised by a couple of certified nutcases; in fact, they were devout Mormon nutcases, which we know are the looniest of all crazy people short of maybe the Manson Family. My mother even admits this, and whenever my dad does something truly bizarre, she reminds us that we're lucky that he functions normally 90% of the time.

    Secondly, my father's cognitive functioning is fairly high. While there are many exceptions to the rule, often people with high IQs make up for their high cognitive function with lower-than-average common sense. Again, this is not always the case, but neither is it an anomaly.

    Finallly, my father can't accept that I'm 16. He looks at me and sees a 12-year-old because that is how I look. (One would normally tell a twelve-year-old about surgery more than nine hours in advance, his stupidity cannot totally be excused in this particular instance.) The point remains, though, that he just CAN'T treat me in an age-appropriate manner. My mom keeps trying to point out ways in which he has improved in this regard, but if there is improvement at all, it is too little and too late. Regardless, I'll be away at college next year. Unless Dad plans on purchasing a helicopter so he can literally hover, my life will be my own at that point.

  3. There's some bad news, Alexis, it's not that you might look like you are twelve. The fact is, most parents really cannot fully come to grips with the fact that their children are growing up.

    In some part of the brain of a parent there's a little part that still sees their child (the successful lawyer, the doctor, the be-studded rock star, even) as being twelve years old.

  4. Matt,

    That is SO comforting! I was hoping when puberty finally hit, I might have a chance at being treated in an age-appropriate manner. Regardless, someday, which feels like an eternity away but will eventually arrive, I will establish financial independence and it won't matter all that much.

    I can now take three consecutive steps on my messed-up leg without benefit of crutches or any other aid!