Disclaimer: To the best of my waking knowledge, on October 6th, 2020, I did NOT experience an NDE (Near Death Experience). I am, however, a writer. And as such, I possess a vivid imagination. Also, who the fuck knows what happens to the subconscious mind under the influence of Propofol.

I made friends with my pre-op nurse from the moment she parted the modesty drape, separating my bed on wheels from the growing numbers of first-shift hospital workers. I was glad I did, because it was she who overruled my anesthesiologist when it came to tapping a vein in me for the IV drip to dreamland. Hell, my anesthesiologist couldn’t find a roll of adhesive tape in the cart drawer. It was good my nurse stuck me before the sleep doctor had a chance, and I hoped that anesthesiology proper, and converting deciliter to milliliter ratios, was more her thing than a simple needle stick.

It was now 7 am. I was scheduled for surgery at 7:30, but a second doctor I also didn’t know told me it looked like we were all ahead of schedule. My face must have had a look, because it was then my pre-op nurse said she would be accompanying to the OR. That made me feel better, somehow, and told doctor number two that being early actually sounded great to me.

Until it didn’t.

Inside my head, it is a very logical place. Well-ordered. You might even call it regimented. I tell myself I keep it that way to allow more freedom along my internal bandwidth for creative things like poetry, or memorizing the script to Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Unfortunately, now was NOT the right time for my creative nether to have nothing but free space for my imagination to roam. Unconsciously, I knew my body was flashing back to the last time I was on a bed with wheels. To the second CT scan, the first time I was scared, when it confirmed what the ER doc already told me.

I had cancer.

Somewhere between the anesthesiologist and the incident with the lost adhesive tape, and the moment when I was being wheeled past what seemed like dozens of scrub-wearing, mask-bearing staff, a second anesthesiologist from who knows where appeared… and at that moment I wanted to say that anesthesiology must be a growth industry or something… to let me know he was going to be taking over the drugs, and that he was also going to be putting a “little something” in my IV drip before they took me to surgery.

This is where the details start to get fuzzy, and I remember having this image of Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland in a movie from 30 years ago, about med students and… well, you read the bold italics, above.

I remember asking him if this was the part where I count backward from a hundred, and don’t make it past 97. I remember him telling me that the “little something” was only to relax me before… I don’t remember what. I caught sight of my pre-op nurse next to me, helping push me through the halls, and for a few seconds, I felt better. I remember how loud the hallway was. The masked folk talking amongst themselves, almost faceless, and realizing that it really didn’t matter if I remembered their faces, because I wouldn’t remember them anyway. I remember my pre-op nurse, although I couldn’t remember her name. I really wished I could remember her name.

Then my destination . The OR. And I remember how bright, God how bright, it was. I saw the operating table with the lights above it and wondered how I was supposed to get to the table from the bed with wheels. I looked around the theater at all the new masked faces I would not remember, doing not much yet. Waiting for, what… me? I remember my surgeon, who I had met the Friday before this Tuesday, reintroduce himself to me as all the bed pushers parallel parked my bed with wheels next to the operating table. I remember four or five masked and gowned folks, none of whom looked big enough or strong enough to transfer me from the bed to the table, all grab an edge of the sheet beneath my gowned body, and on a sloppy count of three, awkward lift me from one flat surface to the other.

I remember they took my gown, and I realized the “little something” must be working, because I didn’t give a shit who saw my dick or my balls. And I remember my, “Hey, I’ve only known you for a few days and shouldn’t you have to buy me dinner before you do this to me?” surgeon ask me nicely to scoot down a little bit so they could drop my arms into the full-length, slotted restraints, there to keep me from accidentally crossing my arms over my body while they had my belly carved open on the table.

I remember my Covid-precautionary surgical mask come off me, and then the gas mask tightly cover my nose and mouth. I remember how restrictive the arm-slot restraints were. How my shoulders started to feel slightly dislocated, and a growing thought that I was going to have to be like this… this Andres Serrano Christ on a Cross… for the next four hours, and my head finally caught up with my body, and for not the first time I was scared.

I remember the second anesthesiologist, the good one with the “little something”, say that I was going to fall asleep now. I looked up into the lights above the table, my table with the arm slots, and squinted. I remember thinking how bright, God how bright.

I remember… nothing.

(c) copyright 2020 William S. Friday

12 thoughts on “Flatliners

      1. Wow, how are you now? Was it surgery to try and get rid of the cancer? My really good friend passed away two months ago from Ovarian cancer. She had a blockage in her intestines and when they went in to do some surgery they found that the cancer had taken over pretty much every organ. It was so sad. My stepmother is going through chemo right now.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve had a few surgeries in my life. The most recent one they put me under, and I really don’t remember the OR at all- I was completely unconscious before they even wheeled me in, and I was back in the recovery area by the time I woke up. It’s weird, but also I wish I could fall asleep that quickly without sedation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. omg I literally laughed out loud when I read the part about you not caring that they saw your privates. LOL It reminded me of giving birth. The nurses comes in and out all the time to check you, and initially you might have concern over who is putting their hand in your snatch, but by the end you don’t give a crap. LOL

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I also thought about giving birth and the C-section. I also was a version of Jesus? Oh goodness, was I really? What a strange position to be in. I loved the movie Flatliners and saw it so long ago. Great idea for your title. Your writing about your experience is, how do I say it, wonderful. I’m sorry for all you’ve had to go through. I’m sending you lots of positive vibes and thoughts and healing vibes, too. These experiences are traumatic. I am so happy to hear that they got all the cancer. My friend had childhood cancer and she’s in her 50s now. She had a kidney removed when she was a child. She’s an amazing person. She’s been so healthy and cancer free ever since. My best wishes your way. Also I’m glad you were able to ride your bike and diverticulitis can be very painful. Glad that was taken care of too. Take care of you! Looking forward to reading more writing when I can 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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