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2004-06-04 - 7:57 a.m.

The Long Wait

By Joan Callaway

Yesterday was a day and a half! At 10 a.m., we arrived as requested at Tower One, Surgery Admission at University of California Davis Medical Center (UCDMC), where our daughter, Marci, did her residency and still practices. With his typical sense of humor, Ed had days before resurrected from the recesses of his memory an almost appropriate (pertinent, I mean) limerick for the occasion, and typed it up. He packed a bag at Marci’s urging – “your own toothbrush, slippers and a robe…you’ll be glad you have them.” And at the last minute before leaving home, he asked me to help him find a safety pin.

Finally, at 10:30 the nurse escorted Ed back to a room to get him ready to be taken up to surgery – two hours later. I waited in the lobby while he changed into his surgical gown, basically a length of print fabric with some inefficient snaps and a couple of ties. Lounging leisurely and rather nonchalantly, I thought, Ed proudly pointed to the typed limerick he had pinned to the front of the skimpy green gown:

There was a man with a hernia,
Who said to his doctor,
“Gol’ dern ya,
When you get down there,
Don’t mess with things
That don’t concern ya!

Marci ran errands, answered pages, and made phone calls, doing her best to distract us. And best of all, she borrowed a key to the OB call room, where after a sustenance salad lunch in the hospital cafeteria, I was to rest comfortably while Ed was in surgery.

I entered the “suite” where the “attendings” – chief residents – spend any hours they can off the floor, catching a few winks or catching up on charts. The TV that barely worked if you unplugged the electric alarm clock didn’t look particularly well used. There was a computer that apparently runs 24 hours a day and a bookcase with a two-year-old Better Homes and Gardens, several large OB tomes, and a medical compendium, offering proof that this room offers more than a quiet, private respite for the over-worked and often over-wrought house staff.

The suite had its own private bathroom – more than a restroom, as it was strangely larger than the bedroom – a huge walk-in shower, stacks of towels and wash cloths, toothpaste, special hand lotion for hands too often scrubbed, and even a lonely Tampax. Sterile and hospital-like, not a personal touch in sight, the room was just white tile and chrome.

I’m going on and on describing things just so you’ll have to wait and wait as I did to hear the verdict, to hear how the surgery had gone. I actually slept for a couple of hours. Who’d have thought I’d be able to do that?

The anesthesiologist resident paged Marci as she had promised about 5 p.m. (about three hours into the surgery) – “The kidney’s released. He’s doing fine. Probably about another hour and a half or so.”

That time passed every so S-L-O-W-L-Y. Marci went out to run another errand, brought back some coffee, a couple of not-very-good eggrolls and a piece of truly decadent chocolate pecan pie from the cafeteria (La Bou was closed by now!) While Marci was gone, I checked my yahoo.com e-mail, but couldn’t remember the name and password we use at cal.net. I read a few of the N.Y. Times news articles and just dinked on the Internet to pass the time. After we’d eaten, Marci answered some of her pending e-mails from patients. I watched Jim Lehrer’s News Hour – all the equivalent of pacing. Marci made several calls to see if Ed had arrived in the Recovery Room. Alas! No!

7 p.m.: At last, Marci’s pager went off with a pager number to call. More waiting. Finally, Dr. Lars Ellison, the surgeon, called back. The surgery had gone well. He had not seen anything he hadn’t expected. No great loss of blood. He tolerated the anesthesia well. He saw nothing in the bladder or nodes. Looks like just recuperation from surgery now. He’ll look in on him Friday afternoon about 4 or 4:30.

Marci predicted it would be another hour and a half or two before they sent him to his room. Well, first they didn’t have a room ready for him…and then they were monitoring a low heart rate. No unauthorized personnel (read family!) are allowed in the Recovery Room at this hospital, but Marci had her Dr. Marci tag on, so they let her in. She found him to be very groggy as they’d given him morphine for pain. Back she came to report to me. I really didn’t want to go home until I’d seen him myself, so even though the Recovery Room is restricted to staff in scrubs, Marci escorted me in. Not that I could do a thing! His mouth was dry, he was all wired up to a monitor, and it was not all that reassuring to hear the monitor beep every once-in-awhile when the heart rate dropped too low. But the RR staff assured us that this was not all that abnormal; they weren’t very concerned and when we left at about 11 p.m., they were readying him for a transfer to his own room. Friday will be a better day – hopefully!

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