The night before brain surgery is supposed to be a fitful tracing along the corridor of one’s past; an examination of a life before its intersection with an event that will forever change the examiner. For me? I slept. I was all out of prayers and last chance thoughtfulness on my own behalf. I’d made my peace, settled my affairs, given away what tangibles I had. I was ready. I would wake, or not. I would be changed, or not. There was heaven, or not.
The following morning, July 6, 1994, was a bustle of needles, last-minute questions, IV solutions, checking and re-checking my armband. Was I who I said I was? Was I the craniotomy or the appendectomy?
At last cocooned into soft blankets, with a final good luck pat on the arm, my gurney was threaded through corridors, elevated two floors, and landing softly next to a surgery table. One, two, three … lift. I was transferred to a table (its cold truth instantly screaming up my back) where life was to be transformed. I would wake (or not) with a very bald head, 6.5 centimeters of growth completely removed (or not) from deep inside my brain and (hopefully) a rounded space left behind in which to fill back up with imagination, personality and a brand new essence of whatever would be.
Thank God for good drugs. I needed every drop of mind-numbing liquid available in the anesthesiologist’s quiver. Frankly, I was still scared in spite of my previous night’s reconciliation with all things brain surgery.
Eight hours of surgery later, I was quietly wheeled to an ICU for careful monitoring. They’d be looking for evidence of brain swelling, bleeding, complications. I didn’t wake until the following morning. Slowly, I was aware of something like a stocking cap fitted over my head and the worst headache I’d ever experienced. But this was great! I woke up. I hurt like hell.
I was alive.
In my face, I could barely make out the features of my friend, Toni. “You did it,” she cooed into my floating, wandering, fuzzy eyes. “And you should see yourself … you’re absolutely beautiful.”
“Sssaahh,” I said. Yay, I meant.
Apparently the mouth sleeps longer than the eyes.