Surgery Day – Operating Room

My last post about the check-in was a little dry, so I will try to spice this one up a little.

So there we are all sitting around in hospital gowns, waiting to be called for surgery. Some of us are already dragging around IV poles, wearing stupid paper booties on our feet, wishing we were anywhere but here.

I can’t decide if I like the larger hospitals with their established procedures and factory like environment. I know how proud they are of their efficiency, but I find it a little cold and very stressful. There I am, sitting with 20 other people, all with our bums hanging out, all with a family member or two waiting for my number to be called, like I’m waiting for a hamburger. There is a screen on the wall with all of the patients and their status, just like at the airport.

About 15 to 30 minutes before the surgery, they call me and I say goodbye to my family and walk into the OR prep area. When I was a little girl, my surgeon would take over from my mom and be there holding my hand as my bed wheeled down the hall. He would talk to me the whole way, right until the anesthesia kicked in. As an adult I have never felt quite so coddled, my more recent surgeries have been prepped in a hallway. I lay on a hospital bed while they run my anesthetic line and the anesthesiologist verifies a few things. Then my surgeon comes over and marks the correct leg with a magic marker to be sure that they operate on the right leg. Then I sit by myself and wait.

So this is the hardest part for me. I hate the last minute wait. There’s nothing to do, nobody to talk to and everywhere you look are medical professionals getting ready to perform.

Then they take you in to the operating room. You may be wheeled in on your existing bed, or you may walk in. Either way you will be moved onto the OR table. It is sterile and gives the surgeon the accessibility they need.

You know when you are up high, how people tell you not to look down? I will tell you not to look around the OR. Everything in an OR is incomprehensible to the layman, worse it is scary looking and intimidating. There may be half a dozen or more hospital staff in masks and gowns milling about and preparing. There are equipment and monitors everywhere, although usually any scary equipment is covered with a cloth. You would be wise to stay focused on people and faces; they are less intimidating than the alternative.

Then I lay down on the table and they strap me in. Then they put the mask over my face and I count backwards, and I’m out.

Now your family just has to wait until it is over and you are transferred to the recovery room and they get an update from the doctor or nurse.

When my dad had his surgery, he went from recovery room to the ICU, bypassing one of the regular steps. As a result, their update system broke down. When his scheduled surgery time had passed, his status hadn’t updated. I spent the next two hours pacing and being told by the staff that they didn’t know anything more than what was on the board. Finally, a nurse felt sorry for me and went to ask. He had been in the recovery room the entire time waiting for the doctor to decide whether he was going to the ward or the ICU. Because the decision hadn’t been made, the system broke and nobody knew where he was.

Smaller hospitals aren’t necessarily any better though. They don’t usually have the automation and nobody has time to give you regular updates, so you just wait until someone calls you. Not a huge difference.

Check out my last post in this series: Surgery Day – Administration of Anesthesia
Check out my next post in this series: Surgery Day – Recovery Room