Flatliners

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