The Odyssey & Escaping Vietnam – Part 2

Day 2 began with a whimper… mine.

After getting in bed just after 4, the nurses do an early morning rounds at about 5, 5:30 so I woke up and then… I was up. The overwhelming feeling was that this was all very wrong. This was for people who were sick, I was fine, just going thru a rough patch, I could take off right now and everything would be OK. But then I thought, well it’s true I could get dressed and leave, but if I do… then the terrorists win… and I can’t abide by that, so it’s under the knife I shall go, for democracy.

Much of the morning was a blur, I figured waking up at 5 would seem like an eternity waiting for the operation (crossing over into the shadowy world that straddled life and death) I was told would start at about 8:50. They began prepping me, I’m not going to lie to you there was a lot of shaving going on, and none of it by me…. They were drawing blood and putting in IV’s, it seemed a bit like a dream, I guess the tiredness and the absurdity of imagining my chest flayed open like a butterfly shrimp at Red Lobster were an abstraction, soon enough it all became very real – and I don’t know why, being asked to put the gown on did it – when they finally made me change into those super flattering hospital gowns, there was no going back –  for god’s sake I already had the gown on. I believe I had the Tom Ford designed gown, slim fit with the custom sleeves adorned in jaunty little snaps and charming string enclosures…. I took a picture of it…


Actually, this photo really doesn’t do it justice, with some black strappy heels it would be darling…. wow, mentioning Tom Ford and black strappy heels in the same post, be gayer…. but captain, I’m already at maximum gay….. So the gown confirmed that indeed this show was about to get on the road. My peoples were allowed to drop by and give me my goodbyes and good lucks & perform the last rites. Then 9:30 came and went and still I hadn’t been moved from my room, the 8:50 surgery having come and gone. Then about 9:45, Albert Einstein walks into my room and starts getting the bed ready to roll and I thought – hello meds, are you kicking in? No, turns out I hadn’t been given anything yet except saline, the dude just really looked like Einstein, shock of crazy white hair, pulling a chalk board with physics equations all over it…. you know the type. So he checks that I’m me, and he’s he and we are off on a magic carpet ride to my meeting with Destiny. A hooker I had met weeks ago who offered to drop by and wish me luck, saying goodbye to Destiny was hard but it had to be done, there were bigger fish to fry and disease itself to be defeated by medical science.

Pushing you through the halls and into the elevators is odd, people looking down at you, and you lying there all feeble & infirm, in your little paper bag dress jammies. Half the time I wanted to jump up and shout ta-da, see I’m fine, spare me the looks of pity, I just shaved my head, it’s not leukemia…. but of course Einstein never would have allowed it. When you get to the operating room floor, you go through these NASA, air lock doors and you get parked in this big common area, to further cool your jets, so the doctors stop by in their gowns, make sure you are still breathing and haven’t peed your bed too badly. Then after sitting in this airport holding pattern over JFK for about half an hour, just you and about 10 other people waiting to go into surgery, you bond with them. Like a platoon about to storm Normandy, only it’s 2010 and there is very little resistance on the beaches… We say our so-longs and joke about what we are gonna do when we get back from Nam…. wait, now I’m getting my wars all mixed up. Well I was nervous, cut me some slack.


Now a guy all in scrubs comes to pick me up, and I can tell he’s a professional because right away he starts calling me Chief… ok chief, here we go, you all right there chief….. keep your hands inside the bed chief some corners are pretty tight… you head down a long corridor and with each set of double doors you blast thru, the chief is getting colder and colder and I can feel the chiefs nuggets climbing higher and higher up into his/my body – given different circumstances the chief could start screaming and crying like a little girl… but he doesn’t. There still may be some last-minute swedish nurses around and they can’t see him cry…. again what I was expecting was this…..


but what I got was much closer to this…..



It’s Ok, I’m fine with that, they are professionals and will take good care of me, they are all beautiful on the inside… well not really, on the inside most people are pretty gross – but you know what I mean. Once in the actual operating room, there is plenty of activity and I would say about 8 – 10  people, like little worker bee’s, buzzing to and fro, getting everything just so. They transfer me to the stainless steel table and it’s getting close, they ask me to sit up, put my feet on this wooden contraption and hug my knees, they are going to give me an epidural. Huh, like as in pregnant women, epidural? Yes the very same, Now, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a baby, but when you do, and they give you an epidural it seems to me that the woman would be concentrating more on the 8 pound honey glazed ham they are extruding thru their loins, rather than a needle puncturing their spinal column. I did not have the luxury of passing a ham and so bore the full brunt of pain as they plunged the needle again and again into my back – you see VGH is a teaching hospital – nuff said…. eventually they got it, and I heard each and every POP as they broke the spinal membrane… eventually it was done and I laid back down, with the majority of my chest frozen. The Doctors came in, and as God is my witness, as they lowered the gas mask over my face and I began to fade, the last thing I heard was “where’s the bone saw”… and I was asleep.

The operation took a few hours and I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit. The remainder of this day is really foggy and I can’t remember much of anything. I spent the whole rest of the day and next night in the ICU. Very, very out of it. My memories next pick up when they are finally ready to move me up to the Step down unit of the Thoracic department. It’s the intensive care unit used after the really Intensive care unit, before you are able to have your own room. So that is where we will pick up next time….

It’s all so exciting isn’t it…..

Have a Great Day