HOSPITAL STORY #1
A Nose By Any Other Name
I guess it is the artist and the improvisational comedian in me that explains why I am such an enthusiastic people watcher.
I watch people to use in drawings. I notice faces especially.
I watch people to base characters on for the improvisational comedy I create.
We really are a fascinating species. '
I want to tell you about Henry Blake.
I call him Henry Blake because he looks like Mclean Stevenson the actor who played Henry Blake on MASH.
I must preface this story by saying that I have never met Henry, talked to Henry or friended Henry on Facebook. This is not because Henry's an asshole. Henry, from all appearances looked...seemed...like a very nice man.
And I say appearances because that is how I got pulled into the world of Henry Blake.
You see, hours before my back surgery, I was lying in a hospital bed wearing nothing but a hairnet, a gown, some lovely white thigh-high's and some blue, non-slip socks.
There was no television in my little area which was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling curtains. I couldn't even see my own monitor. I just heard the beep.
So I did what I normally do. I looked around to see what I could see.
"Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
~ Winnie The Pooh
You see, Henry was in the bed directly across the room from me about twenty or so feet.
Henry was dressed as I was and like me had enough tubes going in and out of him to qualify him as a Borg.
Like I said, Henry looked like McClean Stevenson.
With one exception.
Henry didn't have a nose.
Where his nose should have been was a white bandage. Straight across. Stark white against his dappled, pale skin.
At first I was a little taken aback as anyone seeing a man without a nose would be. I mean...I've seen people cut off their nose to spite their face..but I've never seen...well..you know.
As often happens with me, I made an almost instant connection to something...in this case...someone...from a movie.
My first thought...
My second thought was "How does he blow his nose?"
My first thought was "Wow. He looks like Scorpio, as played by Andy Robinson in Dirty Harry. It was the stark white bandage going across where his nose should have been you see. Scorpio wears one for the latter part of the movie after paying someone to bash his face in.
Haven't seen Dirty Harry?
Been living in a cave? Eastern Montana?
Henry was lying there in his hospital bed, staring blankly at his surroundings.
After a few minutes...or hours...or days...I have no idea what was in the I.V. hooked to my arm.
After some time, several people came over to Henry.
There was a doctor and some nurses.
There was some pleasant chatter and then they got down to business.
Yes. I was eavesdropping. It was either that or the constant beeping right behind me..a little to the left.
There is much concern these days, I've noticed, about making sure that whoever is about to get operated on is the person that is about to get operated on.
All I've got to say is that someone, somewhere, must have screwed up big time.
There must have been a law suit or something because the hospital staff check, double-check and triple-check to make sure you are indeed who the little bracelet on your wrist, the one with the barcode they keep scanning, says you are.
Is there anything more dehumanizing than being scanned with a red laser gun?
Side note: I have an irrational fear that they will scan me and the information will come back as ROMAINE LETTUCE. 99 CENTS A HEAD.
So there was Henry, propped up in his bed, with his no-nose, getting the 3rd degree from the team standing around all sides of his hospital bed.
"Is your name Henry Blake?"
"What is your birth date?"
"And why are you here today, Henry?"
"When do the allies plan on blowing up the railroad between here and Dusseldorf?"
Henry answered all the questions correctly so the mood lightened a little and the doctors began that sterile banter they're so good at. Must be a class in medical school. INSINCERE BULLSHIT 102.
Then his surgeon asked one question again.
"So Henry. Why are you here today?"
And I'm thinking to myself: "Jesus. You're the surgeon. If you don't know what's going on..."
Henry smiled and said enthusiastically...
The same way a child responds to a department store Santa asks an excited seven year old: "So Timmy. WHAT would you like for Christmas?"
Grinning, which stretched his bandage slightly, Henry said "I'm going to get a new nose."
That's something you don't hear every day and I gotta say I was a little freaked out...and...at the same time my heart went out to him.
Apparently though, a new nose was not part of the agenda for the day.
The surgeon said something to the affect of "No. No nose for you today. Today is just the start of several surgeries."
Now, I don't know why Henry didn't have a nose.
I am assuming it was probably cancer...but I don't know.
I thought I heard the word 'explosion' but I'm not sure.
Explosion? Damn, Henry. What have you been up to?
It was sad to be sure. I am by no means making light of his medical situation...I am commenting on the situation he was in though. The absurdity of it, that is.
The doctor pointed out that Henry wouldn't be getting his new nose.
Santa had just kicked Timmy square in the grapes.
Henry's expression changed. Disappointment was written all over his face...and underlined boldly with a white horizontal swipe.
"No new nose?" he asked.
"No Henry...not today."
Oh c'mon! Give the guy a nose!
Apparently, and I'm no doctor, there would have to be several surgeries before Henry would be able to stop and smell the roses...
Henry didn't want to hear any of that. He just wanted his new nose. You could tell he had planned on waking up in recovery with a bright shiny new nose...
He'll go down in history...
You could see that somewhere in his mind he had imagined a display case of noses being presented to him...
"This is a handsome nose. We call it The Excelsior..."
"This is The Roman..."
"This is The Durante..."
"This cute little button is The Dakota Fanning....probably not for you....but isn't it just adorable..."
There was no display case though.
There would be no nose for Henry.
My heart went out to him. I wish I could offer him a nose...just not mine.
My mind raced for a solution.
It's what I do.
I want to help...to make it all better.
There was no easy answer though. Not for Henry. Not today.
You could see it on his face?
His mind was racing too.
Wasn't there something they could do?
Wasn't there something they could put on his face...a temporary nose of some sort perhaps?
A TEMPORARY NOSE!!
Then it hit me and the whole happy scene played out before me
"I've got it!" says the surgeon.
"What?!" says Henry excitedly.
"Do you wear glasses?," asks the surgeon.
"Yes. For reading," Henry replies.
The surgeon's smile widens.
"Why do you ask?"
"I'll be right back!"
The surgeon runs out of the pre-op room. He running so fast there's one of the Road-Runner clouds behind him.
Time goes by and the surgeon returns with a small paper bag.
"Close your eyes..." says the surgeon.
Henry shoots him a glance.
"...c'mon...trust me," assures the surgeon.
Henry closes his eyes and the doctor pulls something out of the bag. At first glance I think they are glasses. Then the doctor blocks my view as he leans over Henry.
When he steps away I can see what his solution was.
Henry is now sporting a new pair of black, horn-rimmed glasses...and a shiny new...
He'll go down in history...
nose and thick mustache...
Say the secret woid and win a hundred dollars...
"You look great!" says the surgeon, "Doesn't he?"
"Oh yes," says the pretty young woman, "very handsome."
"Does anyone have a mirror," asks a curious Henry.
"How do I..how does it look?"
There is a long pause.
There are blank expressions...anxious looks back and forth between nurse and anesthesiologist...nurse and doctor...doctor and anesthesiologist...
The doctor looks around with the hopes that the answer to Henry's question would be written on one of the walls...or perhaps scrolled on a balloon that might have been floating by...or a paper bag...
It's the most beautiful thing I ever saw...
The surgeon's eyes catch mine. I close my mouth which had been agape for the last several minutes. The surgeon looks at the nurse. The nurse looks at him. There is a nod in my direction. The nurse looks at me. There is 'gotcha' nod in response.
The nurse spins on her white shoes and begins to walk quickly towards me.
I can't move. I have tubes coming out of me and the bars are up on both sides of my hospital bed.
She is glaring at me and as she approaches me she grabs the curtains that encircle my little area. She flashes me a tell-anyone-what-you-have-seen-here-today-and...well..you know smile and pulls the curtain closed all the way around me....the little sliders in the rail making a screeching sound that send chills down my spine.
Completely shut off from the world now, deprived of my most favorite sense, I only hear her footsteps as she walks back in the direction of Henry.
I don't remember much after that.
My anesthesiologist came in, introduced herself, and then made sure I was going to be easy to intubate.
It's a simple test.
Scary simple actually.
"Open your mouth as wide as you can."
"Lean your head back as far as you can."
"Okey doke. You're good to go."
It's what known as The Lewinsky Procedure.
It was somewhere around 4:47P.M.
Another young woman came in...she might have introduced herself...it's all starting to get a little blurry now...and then she gave me a shot...it was about 4:51P.M. now....I think...
Eyelids getting heavy.
Fluorescent lights above getting fuzzy...everything's getting fuzzy...I'm getting fuzzy....
I woke up sometime later...in a completely different setting.
There was intense pain in my lower back.
I had no idea where I was.
Well. At least I wasn't in a bathtub filled with ice. I hate it when that happens.
There were tubes in my arm...my nose...
I'd like to say that I thought more about Henry but it would be days before the fog lifted and the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle my life had become would come together to form the picture of my post-op events.
And...my pre-op events.
Once again my thoughts returned to Henry. So optimistic about his new nose. So hopeful. So disappointed.
I wondered how he was...and if his surgery had gone well.
I wondered if he was still sad about not getting his new nose.
I will probably never see him again.
And if I did...I would probably not recognize him as he walks around sporting his new nose.
I wondered if he went with The Excelsior.
I do wish him the very best. I pray that all of his future surgeries are successful and that one day soon he will be able to smell fresh-baked cookies and sheets that have been hanging out on a clothesline on a gorgeous Spring day.
"I'm thankful for laughter except for when milk comes out my nose." ~Woody Allen
I also wish him the joy of laughing so hard milk comes out his nose.
and that's 'Jody' with a 'y'
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