“Put your face mask on properly!”
I caught my breath at the tone of his voice. This was my surgeon addressing me. The man who was about to make a big slice in the back of my neck in order to remove a cyst. This morning, as a matter of fact. And those were the very first words he said to me as I sat down by his desk. I mean shouted at me.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, still in shock. “I have this chronic lung condition that makes breathing difficult, which is why I sometimes have to -”
“I said put your mask on properly!”
So I raised the damn Darth Vader thing a couple of centimetres and prayed inwardly that I wouldn’t pass out from lack of a free passage of oxygen to my lungs.
Apparently satisfied, the surgeon then looked at me – I mean glared at me – and said, “Okay, I’m listening.”
I blinked. “Erm -”
“What are you here for?” he said a few decibels louder, as though addressing a gormless twit. Which I actually can be at times, but he wasn’t to know that.
“A cyst removal.”
He looked taken aback, then confused, then glared at his computer screen and asked me to repeat my name. So I repeated it, this time spelling it out, seeing as Wendy is not a Polish Christian name and this bad-tempered, rude, post-communist-type doctor was most definitely not an English-speaker.
He grumbled something, mumbled something else, asked a few questions about allergies, blah blah blah, shoved a piece of paper in my direction and ordered me to sign, then jerked his head at the adjacent room where a nurse had suddenly materialised. “Go in there,” he barked. “Take off your blouse and lie face down on the bed.”
I did as commanded. The English part of me desperately wanted to tell him off for his appalling manners, but the patient-about-to-be-operated-on part of me didn’t dare do so in case his cutting and slicing technique turned out to be as brutal as his bedside manner. So I remained shtum.
The nurse was marginally better. Though I do emphasise marginally. Let’s just say she at least didn’t shout at me. But neither did she smile. Not once. She just reminded me every now and then – once the operation was underway – to keep still, because moving and twitching was making it difficult for the poor old surgeon.
“But it hurts …” I mumbled face-down, through the hole in the white paper sheet which was rapidly being soaked up in blood. “Are you sure I’ve been given enough anaesthetic?”
A muffled exchange of words between doctor and nurse ensued, out of which I could decipher only snippets, such as: “Why the hell is the damn thing bleeding so much?”
After a slightly more violent wince from me, the doctor asked, “Does that hurt?” and when I bravely replied, “A bit,” he muttered something unintelligible and promptly proceeded to hack and slice and snip away. Judging by the amount of blood gradually covering my neck and face and shoulders and spilling onto the floor right beneath my down-turned face, I reckon there wasn’t much flesh left to hack and slice and snip away at.
“Do you take any medication for a heart condition?” the doctor then snapped at me, sounding just a tad on the uneasy side by now. When I assured him that I didn’t, he went right on with his snipping and slicing.
Finally, the whole wretched procedure came to an end. Procedure being the polite word for it. More like ordeal, I’d say. My surgeon might disagree, but he wasn’t the one lying face-down on that wretched hospital bed, breathing with difficulty through that wretched little hole in the wretched hospital paper cover, watching all that wretched blood drip-drip-dripping onto the wretched hospital floor.
By the time all the blood had been cleaned up (the nurse did at least help with that), I left the room clutching a slip of paper in my hands that stated the date of my check-up appointment. I couldn’t even remember the surgeon having given it to me. It just appeared like a magician’s trick by my bag as I was struggling to put my blouse back on. The appalling man hadn’t even bothered to give it to me in person and neither had he given me any instructions about what to do now. I mean … should I take some pain relief for when the anaesthetic wears off? (It was already hurting now, so how bad would it get later …?) When can I next wash my hair? When should I change the dressing? Can I eat and drink straight away or should I wait a bit? Nope. He said not a word. Nothing. Nada. Nic. (That’s Polish, just in case that horrible guy ever happens to read this.)
So what do I do? Go back next week for yet another ordeal as the bastard examines my stitches? Ask to be seen by another doctor? Or just don’t bother bloody going at all? Modern sutures naturally fade away with time, don’t they? Right? Truth is, I’m scared shitless of going back. More scared than angry, and that’s saying something.
And by the way, I wouldn’t want you, dear fellow-blogger, to think that all Polish surgeons are like this. The last one I had, about two years ago for another procedure, cracked joke after joke with his medical colleagues as he merrily sawed and hacked away at my big toe.