Saturday, April 24, 2010

Confuzzling Anesthesiologists

I promised I would write up one of my weirder experiences with anesthesiologists and here it is. This story is from my wrist surgery.

There were 3 of them. Anesthesia Residents, young and eager.

Their goal? Do a nerve block via the armpit.

They doped me up by pushing something in the IV and and proceeded to fumble the nerve block.

The kind of fumble I imagine no doctor wants because it was public and the patient knew about it.

The three of them huddled in the corner, whispering with worried looks on their faces. I was high, but not deaf so I heard that they hadn't hit the nerve.

Keep in mind, I was out of my gourd on happy drugs so I was not acting rationally. Speaking up was not on the radar because 00000 Look! I have toes! On my feet!

Despite the drugs, a dark fear began swirling in my stomach. I was afraid I was going to be one of those people who would not only be awake, but feel every cut of the scalpel during the surgery.

So they wheeled me into the operating room. No one said anything. Everyone was pretending everything was fiiiine. Plus, did you know, toes wiggle?

More happy drugs via IV with the intent of inducing twilight sleep.

Except I wouldn't go to sleep.

I was petrified if I did, I would not be able to tell the surgeon when I could feel the scalpel. Keep in mind, this was all in my head. Not once did I say anything to anyone. I can only blame that on the narcotics.

More whispered conferences and worried looks among the anesthesia team. I distinctly heard them saying, "Why isn't she sleeping?"

So they pumped more happy drugs into the IV.

And then more.

Followed by even more.

I resisted and stayed awake. It wasn't that hard actually.

It ended up being a good thing, I think. Because the fumbled nerve block did wear off mid-surgery and they had to use general anesthesia.

However, by the time I could feel anything, I was so doped up I could only moan. I couldn't form words, but I remember the surgeon instantly stopped and asked what hurt. I gurgled out a narcotic laced interpretation of the word shoulder and next thing I knew, the mask was coming down over my face.

I had a hell of an anesthesia hangover the next day. Very sick.

I wish someone had just taken me by the hand and said 'it looks like the nerve block is only partial, so here's how we're going to manage that yadda, yadda, yadda.' That's all I needed. Nothing more than that and certainly not more narcotics.

Instead, I think the residents may have glossed over their fumble? I don't really know, but my impression is that it was swept under the rug. Or maybe everyone knew and it really was okay, but no one explained it all to me? Often as a patient, I notice that everyone else knows what's going on but me, so that could've been the problem. No one stopped to fill in the patient.

Or maybe the pieces parts I saw/heard were out of context. I have no idea, but it was definitely a bizarre experience. Stressful too.

Hey docs, don't let the patients see you sweat and don't be afraid to tell them the truth either. All we want is to be taken care of as patients, a flub is okay as long as there's a plan and the patient isn't left in the dark to assume the worst.

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